Ever wonder why your dog sheds so much? Well, you're certainly not alone. But sometimes excessive shedding is tied to disease, stress, diet, allergies, or other health concerns that need their owners attention. So why does your dog shed? How much is too much? And how do you control that hair from spreading all over the house? Let's find out...
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Why Dogs Shed
Each individual hair on your dog goes through growth stages, and each of those hairs will eventually become old or damaged and fall out to make room for new hairs. Therefore, shedding is a natural process of continuously growing hair that eventually sheds itself to maintain coat health. The rate of which is falls out depends on breed, health, age, and environment.
All animals with hair shed (including you!), but dogs have more hair to lose - so it's a little more noticeable when they shed.
There are a variety of non-shedding dog breeds, which have a different set of grooming requirements, but we'll stick to lessons about shedding dogs in this guide.
Double Coated breeds are the main offenders when it comes to shedding (such as: Labradors, German Shepherds, Huskies, Collies). They have two layers of fur, and these layers combined can leave a very impressive amount of hair around your home.
What Causes Excessive Shedding
Did you know your dog's coat responds to daylight? As days get shorter in the fall, your dog will naturally respond by producing a thicker, warmer coat for the cold months ahead. As the days get longer your dog will shed that thick coat. This also means that indoor dogs will shed more evenly throughout the year as they're exposed to less daylight.
Typically double coated breeds will "blow" their coat twice a year, in the fall and spring. These are peak shedding seasons that generally last 2 - 4 weeks. During this time you can expect a big increase in shedding hair, and you can help the process out by brushing your dog everyday.
A healthy balanced diet promotes skin elasticity and strong hair follicles - which means a lot less shedding. If you're dog is shedding more than usual, generally the main culprit is their food (or food quality). You may need to educate yourself on how to read ingredients and labels to ensure your dog is meeting their nutritional requirements. You may also need to consult with your vet to see if your dog has some food sensitives or allergies.
Losing Their Puppy Coat
When your puppy begins their journey into life - nature equips them with a soft, fuzzy coat to keep them warm and protected. After about 4 months that puppy begins losing their coat to make room for their new adult coat - during which you can expect a big increase in shedding for at least a few weeks.
Ever feel so stressed you swear you're losing your hair? Dogs can feel the same way - but sometimes dogs are good at hiding their stress. A sudden surge in shedding is the first sign something is wrong, but you'll need to look for other symptoms:
- Drooling or panting
- Ears pinned back
- Tail between legs
- Destructive Behavior
You'll have to find the source of their stress and remove it or help them feel comfortable again. Stress can be related to many different events: loud noises, overstimulation, unfamiliar places, introducing new pets or people into your home. It could also be pain or illness, perhaps a sprained bone, upset stomach, or disease.
Excessive shedding may be a symptom of something larger at play. Your dog may have contracted a disease, have a hormonal imbalance, sprained or hurt themselves, gotten pregnant, eaten something they shouldn't have, or many other possibilities. Again, look for signals of stress, and bring your dog in to see a vet for a checkup.
Allergies can cause inflamed and itchy skin, which leads to scratching and more shedding. Look for other signs and symptoms such as:
- Red, watery eyes
- Constant scratching
- Itchy, red skin
- Patches of fur missing, or scabs from scratching
- Red, inflamed, or infected ears
Dog allergies can be environmental or food based, and you'll need to consult with a vet to determine the exact cause.
Neutered or Spayed
Testosterone and other hormones can be partly responsible for keeping hair follicles strong and healthy. But major changes in hormones (such as being neutered) can cause changes in skin elasticity and hair follicles, resulting in major shedding for several months. However, coats generally return to their normal state over time.
Get Control of Shedding Dog Hair
Start with brushing everyday using a pin or slicker brush - this daily routine will remove loose and dead hair from the surface coat and reduce shedding around your home. However, brushing only deals with the surface hair, and double coated breeds have a lot of extra fur hidden underneath that a regular brush cannot reach.
For double coated breeds I highly recommend you use an undercoat rake once per week - it's a soft rake that can get right down to the skin and remove hidden hair and mats. The undercoat is where the majority of shedding comes from, so dealing with this will make a huge difference.
For single coated breeds you may need to visit a groomer or find a good set of dog clippers for grooming at home.
Ideally, bathe your dog once every 6 - 10 weeks. Again, this process helps remove a lot of loose and dead hair, along with keeping their coat smelling great. A dogs coat has natural oils that can be stripped away from too much bathing, leaving them with dry, flaky skin, so do not bathe your dog more than once per month.
Also, use a moisturizing pet shampoo (such as coconut or oatmeal) to keep your dog from getting dry skin.
Healthy Diet = Healthy Coat
A good healthy diet, rich in omega fatty acids and high quality proteins, will promote healthy, strong hair follicles and natural oils. This means less shedding and an overall healthier companion.
Stress Free Environment
Some dogs are more emotionally sensitive than others, look for signs of stress and discover the source so you can make changes in their daily routine.
Talk to your vet
There might be more going on than you know - shedding could be a symptom for other possible health concerns that need your attention. Regular check ups can address these potential problems and properly treat them.