What signs should you look for in a healthy coat? For starters, you should get to know your pet's unique characteristics. Be sure to do a head-to-paws check daily for both cats and dogs, and brush your pet at least once a week. For dogs, brushing more often (even daily) helps spread natural oils throughout the coat and untangle mats. Cats (and your carpet) also benefit from reduced hairballs and the cuddle time they get from being groomed.
Cats are devoted self-groomers, so an unkempt coat may be a sign your kitty isn't feeling their best. Arthritis could be preventing your cat from grooming certain spots, and a dull, greasy or matted coat can also point to health problems or a lack of essential nutrients. A stressed cat can also over-groom and end up pulling out tufts of her own fur.
Your dog doesn't bathe as often and may need a little more help to look well-groomed. The American Kennel Club has a great dog breed descriptor that can help you determine coat characteristics and clarify the maintenance needed for your dog's fur. What's normal for one breed may not be for another; a husky might need daily brushing, while your dachshund could be happy with a quick bath. Dogs with thinner, light-colored skin, like pit bull mixes, can also be more susceptible to skin irritations like sunburn, insect bites and seasonal allergies, notes Cuteness. If you have a lovable mutt, reading some guidelines for caring for short and long hair can help establish a baseline.
When brushing your cat or dog, keep an eye out for:
Clumps of fur falling out or bald patches
Dry, red or irritated skin
Sores or rough areas
Little black or white specks, which could be ticks or flea eggs
If none of these things appear, your pet likely has a healthy coat. However, if you do notice any of those symptoms, it's time to look deeper to determine the casue of your pet's coat issues.