PROVET EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS
RESPONSIBLE PET CARE
Subject : Biological variation in pets - hair coat
Children should be aware of the wide range of biological variation in animals. Pets are a good population to study because most children are in daily contact with at least one pet. Approximately one in every 2 households have a pet in the UK, and one in 4 households have a dog or a cat. The third most popular pet in the UK is the rabbit.
The following areas can be discussed and explored verbally, or in written form in a class. When appropriate the examples can illustrated with photographs.
1. Pet animals have a wide variety of hair coat types including :
Long hair - eg Old English Sheepdog, Persian cats
Short hair - eg domestic short-haired cats (the commonest form of cat), ponies
Smooth hair - eg rats, ferrets, cats, dogs
Wiry hair - eg wire-haired fox terrier, Airdale Terrier
Straight hair - eg Afghan Hound, hamsters
Curly hair - eg Curly Coated spaniels,
Rossette hair - eg guinea pigs
The main purpose of hair is protection against adverse environmental conditions
Especially to protect warm blooded animals against the cold.
Animals which lived in warm environments don't need hair
Reptiles and chelonians don't maintain their body temperature - they allow it to fluctuate with the environment
Fish don't need to maintain their body temperature - the surrounding water does that for them. Even when water freezes on the surface temperatures are maintained within an optimal range at deeper levels
Other Pets do not have hair including :
fish - scales
birds - feathers
reptiles - scales
chelonia -tortoises and turtles - scales
stick insects - chitinous exoskeleton
rare in dogs - but the chinese crested dog is an example !
Variations in coat type are genetically controlled within specific breeds. The appearance of a coat can be affected by accumulations of dirt, grime, and other debris. Occasionally a breed can have more than one hair coat type eg short-haired and wire-haired dachshunds.
2. Pet animals have a wide variety of hair coat (skin, scales or feather) colours including :
Single coat (scale, skin or feather) colours :
Black - eg cats, rats, rabbits, dogs (eg Newfoundland), fish
White - eg rabbits, cats, Samoyed dogs
Brown - eg hamsters, ferrets
Red - eg Irish setter dog, cats
Blue - eg cats (eg Burmese), Budgerigars
Cream - cats
Yellow - eg canaries, Labradors
Orange - eg guinea pigs, goldfish
Green - eg budgerigars, lizards
Albino - albino animals lack pigment all over - so they are white, but they also have pink noses, eyelids and lack pigment in the iris of the eye which is pink.
Multiple coat (skin, scales or feather) colours and patterns :
Almost any combination of one or more colours exists
Patches - eg black and white cats, black and tan dogs
Spots - eg dalmatian dogs, fish
Stripes - tabby cats, fish
Merle - a mixture of colours eg Blue merle collies
Cats are often basically one colour, but with a different colour and/or pattern on the legs, tail, face and ears (these are called "points" ) eg tabby point siamese cats have a cream body with tabby "points".
Piebald - term for black and white patches on horses
Piebald spotting - refers to white patches on black cats.
Skewbald - term for brown and white patches on horses
Many birds have specific colours to parts of their body, eg head, breast feathers, wings etc
Some animals have the ability to change colour to blend in with their environment eg chameleon (difficult to keep, but they are kept as pets).
Variations in hair coat (skin, scales and feather) colour are genetically controlled. In domesticated species there may be no rational reason for the colour patterns. In pets that are essentially wild the colour pattern often serves a serious purpose :
Protection - camouflage, warning, to frighten off predators
Courtship (especially birds)
Hair colour can be abnormal in some cases of :
Nutritional deficiency - eg copper (rare)
Disease - eg liver disease (rare)
With ageing coat colour changes
Sometimes injured hair grows back a different colour eg in some cats black hair grows back white after it is clipped. Scars on fish often appear white.
Most breeds only exhibit a small range of colour variations eg German Shepherd dogs may be :
Black and tan
Brindle - a general mixture of colours eg black and tan hairs mixed.
White is a rare variant
BUT others only have one colour variant, eg Dalmatians are white with black spots, Samoyeds are white .
Sometimes the hair coat is specially prepared for showing certain breeds.
Horses and ponies are often clipped-out.
Dogs - eg Standard Poodles are specially clipped, Old English Sheepdogs are well groomed and dusted with talc.
Guidelines for keeping pet's hair coats in good shape
Keep the coat clean
Avoid contact with dirty, toxic or caustic substances
Remove large accumulations of mud, plant material, other dirt - brush off, shampooing
Keep the coat well groomed to stop it from getting knotted, or soiled, especially around the genital regions - regular brushing and combing
Keep the coat length manageable - cutting, clipping
Keep the coat texture correct - shampooing and sometimes conditioning
Do not wash too frequently as this removes natural oils in the coat
CLICK HERE for more detailed information about grooming.
PROVET CLASS ACTIVITIES RELATED TO HAIR TYPES, QUALITY AND COLOUR IN PETS
1. Study into different hair types in pets
2. Study into different coat colours in cats
3. Study into different coat colours in dogs
4. Study into family care of pet haircoat - grooming, brushing and shampooing