Are you one of the thousands of pet parents who keeps a lint roller in their car... And at their office... And maybe every room of the house? Do you avoid wearing certain colors other than that of your dog's coat? Do you find yourself vacuuming to no avail? If you answered yes to these questions, you have a shedder on your hands.
Chances are, you know that the vast majority of dogs shed from time to time, some more than others. But have you ever stopped to wonder why that is the case? Perhaps you're questioning whether your dog's shedding is normal or if it's becoming an issue. Furthermore, many pet parents may not realize that excessive shedding is often a sign that something more serious is developing under the surface.
Not to worry, in this article, we will shed light on all things related to dog shedding. (See what we did there?) We will also cover ways to manage the hairy madness and tips that owners should know about whether or not their dog's shedding should be looked at more closely. Let's get started!
Dog Shedding: Why Does it Happen?
First things first, why do dogs shed? Shedding is a perfectly normal and healthy function that dogs (and people) do naturally. Healthy shedding occurs for several reasons. For starters, the dog's coat helps regulate their body temperature. Therefore, in colder months dogs will typically shed less. In warmer months, the body naturally wants to stay as cool as possible so it will rid itself of more hair (heat). Additionally, shedding occurs when the hair stops growing. The body sheds the old, dead hair in order to make room for new hair to take its place.
With that said, shedding can also occur due to disease, old age, and many other reasons that dog owners should be aware of. We'll discuss all the possibilities shortly.
In this particular scenario, the definition of to shed is to lose hair. Again, shedding can occur due to age, disease, or for natural, healthy causes.
Dog Shedding: What is a Normal Amount?
"Normal" is a funny word as what's considered to be normal varies greatly from one dog to the next. There are three factors that play large roles in how much hair your dog sheds: their breed, the dog's overall health condition, and the current climate. It is important for pet owners to be aware of how much their dog typically sheds in order to recognize if and when the shedding becomes excessive.
Breed of Dog
The breed of dog greatly affects the amount that they naturally shed. This is, in large part, why certain dogs are bred to be hypoallergenic and shed significantly less.* These dogs make it possible for people who have allergies to dogs to be able to know the joys of pet parenthood.
*Even "non-shedding" or hypoallergenic dogs will shed to a small degree. The only dogs that are completely shed-free are hairless dogs.
Heavy Shedding Dog Breeds
The following breeds of dogs are considered to be heavy shedding breeds.
- German Shepherd
- Chow Chow
- Border Collies
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Cardigan Welsh Corgi
- Siberian Husky & Alaskan Husky
If you have allergies or are worried about your floors being covered in dog hair, the aforementioned breeds may not be the right fit.
Dogs That Don't Shed | Non Shedding Dogs
The following dog breeds are considered to be either low shedding or non-shedding breeds. Again, all dogs with hair will shed to some degree. However, the following dogs shed very minimal amounts.
- Bichon Frise
- Chinese Crested
- Coton de Tulear
- Irish Water Spaniel
- Kerry Blue Terrier
- Shih Tzu
- Bedlington Terrier
- Portuguese Water Dog
- Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
- American Hairless Terrier
- Afghan Hound
- Peruvian Inca Orchid (Hairless)
Climate & Weather Changes
Another factor that greatly affects how much a dog sheds is the climate and seasonal changes. If you have a double-coated dog, you know first hand that weather affects some dogs much more than others. During the spring and fall seasons, double-coated dogs shed what is known as their undercoat. In some breeds like the Alaskan Husky and Chow Chow, this amount of shedding can be extremely heavy. Again, this is where knowing your dog's normal shedding amount comes into play. Only by understanding what is typical for your dog to shed will pet owners be able to recognize when the hair loss becomes excessive.
On the other hand, some dogs aren't affected by seasonal changes at all, particularly if they are kept inside for the majority of the year. It is important for pet owners to take their climate into considering before deciding on what dog breed is best for them. An Alaskan Husky in Miami is going to have to shed quite a lot of fur in order to keep their body temperature regulated during the hot Florida months. Comparably, a Chinese Crested will have to wear sweaters to keep their hairless body warm if they live in a cold climate.
Overall Health Condition
Finally, your dog's overall health condition can greatly affect the amount that they shed. For example, dogs that are pregnant are known to shed more than their typical "normal" amount. However, this hair loss is considered to be healthy and expected. Age also affects shedding as older dogs tend to lose hair more often.
With that said, there are also ailments that cause excessive shedding and they should not be overlooked.
Dog Shedding Excessively: A Cause for Alarm?
As we previously mentioned, most shedding is considered to be a normal, healthy, natural bodily function. However, if the hair loss becomes excessive it may be a sign of an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed.
Skin Conditions and Irritations
Different skin conditions and irritations are leading causes of excessive dog shedding.
The most common of these skin conditions include:
- Parasites / a parasitic infestation (fleas, lice or mites)
- Fungal or bacterial infections
- Self-induced injury from excessive licking
When it comes to skin irritations leading to shedding, it is common for dog owners to also see the following symptoms:
- Red, inflamed skin
- Bumps, rashes or scabs
- Open sores
- Thinning of coat
- Dull, dry hair that pulls out easily from petting or brushing
- Dry flaky skin
- Bald spots
- Excessive scratching
- Repeated face rubbing
- Foot licking
If you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms persisting for over a week, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Constant licking and scratching can lead to a slew of additional conditions including hot spots and bacterial infections that you'll want to avoid at all cost.
We likely don't have to tell you that dogs are highly sensitive animals. They experience stress and anxieties just like people do. Interestingly enough, it is not uncommon for dogs to experience physiological responses to stresses such as moving homes or a death in the family. In some cases, high amounts of anxiety can quickly lead to high amounts of shedding. If anxiety is causing your dog to shed excessively, it is important to do your best to pinpoint the stressor and manage it appropriately. In most cases, an extra dose of TLC will also help.
Diseases: Internal & External
Excessive dog shedding can also be a telltale sign of varying internal and external diseases. In fact, excessive shedding is a symptom of all of the following diseases:
- Thyroid disease
- Adrenal disease (including Cushing’s disease)
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Immune disease
As you can see, excessive shedding should not be overlooked. If your dog typically doesn't shed much and has recently been losing a large amount of hair, it is imperative that you get to the bottom of what is causing the change.
Environmental & Food Allergies
Excessive hair loss is also a symptom of both environmental allergies as well as dog food allergies. Additionally, inhalants such as household cleaners, new shampoos, or laundry detergent can cause your dog to experience an allergic reaction, often resulting in a large amount of loose hair covering the floors.
Unfortunately, pinpointing exactly what your dog is allergic to can prove to be a bit challenging. In most cases, pet owners have to use a process of elimination in order to figure out their dog's sensitivities. Your veterinarian will be able to walk you through the most effective way to proceed.
Hormonal imbalances such as Hypothyroidism as well as over-production or under-production of hormones can also result in excessive dog shedding.
As we previously mentioned, pregnancy can also result in more hair loss than usual, yet is considered normal. However, if you are concerned about your dog's shedding or if you notice bald spots, talk to your veterinarian. Your dog may benefit from a nutritional supplement that will help to restore and balance their hormones.
How to Manage Dog Shedding
Pet owners will not be able to completely eliminate healthy shedding, particularly in heavy shedding dog breeds. However, there are ways to help reduce the amount of loose fur in your home and on your clothes.
Purchase Special Grooming Tools
One of the best ways to manage your dog's shedding is by purchasing a special grooming brush which will help remove excess loose hair. Each brush is slightly different so it's important to follow the directions provided. Some grooming tools will instruct you to first brush backward in order to remove the dead skin follicles and then proceed with normal brushing. There are also grooming tools specially designed for dogs with double coats and help to control shedding.
Whether or not your dog is a heavy shedder, regular brushing is an important part of maintaining your dog's skin health. For non-shedding breeds, pet owners can purchase tools such as a natural-bristle brush or a glove brush with bristles to help keep their dog's coat shiny and healthy.
Diet Diet Diet!
Your dog's diet is incredibly important. Many pet owners may not realize that feeding your dog a well-balanced diet is an effective way to reduce shedding.
Additionally, it goes without saying that diet is tied to just about everything in your dog's life. Without the proper nutrition they need, the excessive shedding will be the least of your concerns. We recommend talking to your veterinarian regarding whether your dog could benefit from additional nutritional supplements and if they are being fed the best diet for their individual needs. Trust us, your dog's food can truly make a whole of difference for every part of their health and wellbeing.
Furthermore, if your dog's shedding is due to a food allergy, making an appropriate dietary change will not only reduce shedding but also resolve the associated gastrointestinal issues that your dog is likely experiencing.
Managing excess hair loss may come in the form of managing anxiety. Consider if there have been any changes in your dog's life, big or small. Did you move homes? Was there a change in the household? Even something as seemingly insignificant as having an extended visitor can cause your dog to experience stress. Whenever possible, try to pinpoint exactly what is causing their anxiety. Consider whether it is something that may be able to be eliminated or whether an extra dose of attention and love can help make your pup feel more secure.
Flea & Tick Preventatives
Parasites, such as fleas and ticks, are a leading cause of skin irritation and subsequent excessive shedding. It is important for dog owners to understand whether their furry friend is at risk of getting flea or tick bites. In some states, particularly in hot months, fleas and ticks exist in massive amounts and can wreak havoc on your dog's body. If these parasites exist where you live (and they likely do) make sure that your dog is on a preventative treatment.
Talk to Your Vet
As always, we recommend talking to your vet when it comes to your fur baby's individual needs. Providing your veterinarian with as much information as possible will help them diagnose what is likely causing your dog to shed more than usual. Additionally, your vet will be able to perform the necessary testing in order to rule out serious diseases and infections. We feel it is always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to your four-legged friend. Trust your gut if you think that something may be wrong with Fido.
Dog Shedding: A Final Thought
At the end of the day, we know that you want the very best for your furry friend. With that said, even the most doting pet parent can find constant shedding to be a bit of a headache. Before walking to the closet to pull out the vacuum for the fourth time today, consider whether or not your dog's shedding is normal. Are the seasons changing? Do you own a breed that has a double coat and sheds their undercoat during certain months? Have there been any new changes in your dog's life? Again, normal shedding is a natural part of your dog's life, but excessive shedding should not be overlooked.
To reiterate, knowing your dog's "normal" is a crucial part of recognizing the development of a slew of ailments early on. Realizing that your dog is shedding more than their typical amount is the first step in being able to address the change. Excessive shedding isn't always a cause for alarm, but pet owners should do all that they can to get to the bottom of why their dog is losing hair.
Finally, talk to your holistic veterinarian regarding dietary changes and supplements that may benefit your dog's overall health, restore hair loss, and help to prevent excessive shedding in the future. Something as simple as switching to a different dog food formula and implementing CBD oil may be just what the doctor ordered.