DEAR PAW'S CORNER: My cat, Chester, has always been a big shedder with his long hair. I've pretty much kept up with it by brushing his coat every evening. But lately I've noticed a lot more hair deposited on the furniture and carpet, and when I comb him I have to clean out the brush several times. What could be causing this increased shedding? — Cherie K. in Dubuque, Iowa
DEAR CHERIE: To start, make an appointment with Chester's vet for a complete physical exam. Excess shedding doesn't always have a concrete explanation, but it can signal a change in his health, especially if it wasn't a problem before.
Excess shedding can have a cause as benign as changes in the season — shedding in spring and fall, for example. Or it could be triggered by allergies to dust, pollen and molds, which can irritate his skin and make him scratch more.
Skin diseases such as ringworm can be another cause — it's something the vet will certainly check for, along with flea infestation or other irritants.
Excess shedding also can signal much more serious conditions, such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism, something that a vet can diagnose. Ahead of the appointment, watch Chester's behavior: Is he drinking excessively? Does he seem agitated? Is he eating as much as he used to? Write down anything that seems unusual and share it with the vet.
If Chester has developed a health condition, the vet can prescribe the right medications and advise you on the best diet to feed him. If allergies or some unknown irritant is at work, the exam will rule out other possible causes so you can focus on finding a shedding solution.
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