Dog shedding is manageable for all dog owners.
Several factors contribute to excessive shedding and do not necessarily need a visit to the vet.
Using the right tools to handle dog shedding makes the process easy and less stressful for both you and your dog.
Dealing with dog shedding is as much of a "joy" of pet ownership as becoming adept at using a pooper-scooper. Sure, it's nice to have a clean, fur-free couch, but the reason for that canine hair care goes much deeper.
Loose hair on your pup from dog shedding gets matted fairly easily. Imagine a tangle in your hair. If you leave tangles for too long, brushing them out gets painful. Your dog is no different. The only difference is that you detangle your hair while your furry friend needs extra help.
If you are new to the world of dog grooming, then knowing what needs doing is often overwhelming. With so many tools and options, how do you know where to start?
Starting a routine requires researching your dog's breed. Having this knowledge is important in knowing if anything abnormal is happening. Your dog should not be losing clumps of fur all year long.
Why Do Dogs Shed?
Your pet's hair grows just as your hair grows. There are cycles hair goes through, and it is continuous. When older hair falls out, new hair replaces it.
Seasonal changes impact the amount of hair your pet sheds. In anticipation of the colder months, your pet grows a thicker coat. It is not unusual to notice more shedding than normal in the spring as the thick coat starts to thin out once more.
Even dogs that live primarily indoors notice these shifts in weather. Flipping to the heat rather than air conditioning is enough to trigger your dog's body into growing a thicker coat.
If you have a double-coated dog, like a Siberian husky or golden retriever, you might notice they shed twice a year — once in the spring and once in the fall. It is their coats getting ready for the weather ahead.
Thanks to dogs mainly living indoors, many breeds shed all year long as the hair grows and then falls out. Your dog's breed influences the amount of shedding as well. Some breeds don't shed much, while others do.
You have likely come across the myth that there are dog breeds that don't shed. The truth is, every dog breed sheds, just some aren't noticeable. These breeds of dogs shed less than others, but just because you don't see it doesn't mean it isn't happening.
These dogs need routine trips to the groomers, or for you to do it yourself. If you leave your dog's fur unkempt, it tangles and grows bacteria. This continues into a mat that tightens up to the skin, which is very painful.
Tangles damage your dog's skin. Often, the coat doesn't grow back the same way after this kind of damage.
What about the dogs with no fur? True, they aren't shedding fur, but just like humans, they do shed dry skin. You don't deal with hair but these dogs are prone to dry skin, sunburns, and acne.
Furless breeds often have sensitive skin and must bathe more often than other dogs.
Different Breeds and Their Coats
Understanding your dog's coat is the first step in dealing with shedding. Different dog breeds have different coats that come with their own set of shedding rules.
Dogs have different lengths, textures, thicknesses, and hair growth patterns. Before you bring home your new pet, know the types of coats and their grooming needs.
Smooth coats have shiny, sleek fur that lays down close to the body. Dogs with this kind of coat often need a good brushing every day to every other day. They often shed all year long in moderate amounts.
Beagles, boxers, and bulldogs need daily brushing to ensure proper coat health.
A double-coated dog has a short, thick undercoat under a topcoat of longer guard hairs. Double-coated dogs have a variety in the softness of the guard hairs.
Wiry guard hair coats, like the Lakeland terrier, need their coats hand stripped. It removes the hairs at the root to prevent tangles.
Wire coats range in textures from coarse to smooth. While dogs with this coat type don't shed as often as others, they do require more grooming. These coats tangle easily, creating large mats.
Brushing daily or every other day prevents these tangles from happening. Scottish terriers, Airedale terriers, and Irish wolfhounds all share this coat type.
These coats are long, straight, and silky. They need brushing daily to prevent any tangles. The grooming needs are more significant than for other dogs. Brushing keeps the hair looking silky, but it needs constant maintenance.
Cocker spaniels and Irish setters are two of the most popular breeds known for their silky coats.
Curly coats range from tight curls to soft beach waves. Curly coats also include corded coats like the pumi. Each type of curly coat has different needs when it comes to grooming.
Ask a professional groomer to teach you the best approach and tools for your dog's coat. Tight curls do mat far easier than coats. Think of it like wool that clumps together if not appropriately brushed, creating a blanket that tugs on your dog's skin.
Unlike sheep, dogs' skin pulls far more and rips, creating wounds if not properly cared for.
When Is Dog Shedding Season?
There is no particular "shedding season" for all dogs. Just as there is a range in hair types, there is a range in shedding patterns.
The seasons, where you live, and how much daylight you get all influence these patterns. Dogs living in areas with six months of darkness shed far less than dogs who live where the days are longer.
Hormones, metabolism, reproduction cycles, and age also determine when a dog sheds. The many contributing factors make determining your dog's "shedding season" difficult.
The most typical shedding seasons are spring and fall. In the spring, the winter fur thins and is replaced by the shorter warm-weather fur. In the fall, the "summer clothes" are put in the "closet" to make way for the heavy, protective winter coat.
Dogs of different breeds in the same house often shed differently.
You don't need to be concerned unless you notice a significant change in their shedding pattern. At that point, call your vet to determine the cause.
Reasons for Excessive Shedding
Shedding is natural, but excessive shedding indicates something is going on under the surface. It is often not noticed until you realize there is far more hair than usual on everything.
Seasonal shedding does not leave bald spots and red spots on your dog. If your dog is shedding more than normal, book a vet appointment.
Stress doesn't just hurt you, it also hurts your pup. Dogs love routine and establishing one is a cornerstone of their health.
When a drastic change happens, you guessed it — it causes significant stress. Moving, adding or losing a family member (human or animal), or just losing a favorite toy are stressors that can cause excessive shedding.
Just like you, your dog can have allergies. Fleas, food, and environmental allergens cause excessive shedding.
If your dog is scratching more than normal or biting their skin, they are likely allergic to something. Check for red pimple-like bumps on their skin or ear discharge.
If you notice these changes, take your dog to the vet immediately.
Parasites also cause excessive shedding. Fleas and ticks are dogs' worst parasitic enemies, causing excessive scratching. These itchy pests are big enough to see with the naked eye.
Skin mites are invisible until put under a microscope. If your pet is itching and you don't see fleas or red bumps, take your pup to the vet.
Itching is far from the worst thing parasites cause.
Mosquitoes carry heartworm. Dogs infected with heartworm don't show immediate signs. Heartworms infect the heart, burdening blood flow and eventually causing heart failure.
Your pet's diet is a leading factor in how much they shed. Pets thrive on high proteins and nutrients in their diet. Unfortunately, many commercial pet foods lack the nutrients your dog requires.
Many pet food brands use cereal by-products that contribute to excessive shedding. Check the ingredient list. If protein is not the first ingredient, changing your dog's diet might reduce the shedding.
Check with your veterinarian before you switch diets. Changing things too drastically can cause tummy troubles.
Don't feed your dog people food without your vet's approval. Human diets lack many things your dog needs to thrive.
The Wrong Shampoo
Yes, the wrong shampoo contributes to excessive shedding. If you don't use a shampoo made for dogs, then it dries out their skin and buys them a one-way ticket to itch city.
People shampoo is too harsh on your dog's skin and coat. It dries out their skin, making it itchy. Even if you are using the correct product, not rinsing it out thoroughly is enough to cause damage to the skin.
Conditioners work the same way. Human conditioners are harsh on your dog's skin. The simple truth is human products aren't made for your pets. Plain water is the best way to clean your dog until you get them their own shampoo.
Shedding in large amounts also happens with diseases like Cushing's. Hormonal imbalances caused by a thyroid disorder also play a part in shedding.
Look for dark or discolored skin, loss of appetite, or increased thirst. These are signs that something deeper is wrong and needs attention.
Steps To Reduce Overwhelming Shedding
No one wants dog hair tumbleweeds rolling across the room or choking the vacuum every five minutes. Your dog is going to shed, but there are ways to keep those tumbleweeds from tumbling.
Most of the steps are simple and require understanding your dog's coat before you start. Don't let that stop you! Once you know what you are doing, it is easy to follow a routine.
Start a Grooming Routine
The first step is to establish a grooming routine. If you didn't start this when your dog was a puppy, they aren't going to like it right away. It takes some time to get your dog used to the tools you are using.
Take it slow and use positive reinforcement to teach your dog that grooming is a good time and something to enjoy. Don't force your dog to stand still or hold them down to groom them. That only teaches them that when they see the tools, they are going to hate what comes next.
If possible, set up outside or somewhere without rugs and carpet. Be sure your dog has something stable to stand on, like a table with a towel, yoga mat, or something that makes your dog feel secure to stand on. It saves your back from bending down and brushing them.
If your dog isn't comfortable standing on a table, sit down with them. Go in small increments, giving both you and your dog a break.
The first few sessions of this routine may only be five minutes. Gradually increase the time your dog is on the table. Jumping directly into a 45-minute grooming session stresses your dog, especially if they aren't used to it.
Use the Correct Tools
You need a variety of tools to ensure your dog's coat stays healthy. Depending on your dog, you might need to brush them daily or only a few times a week. Not only do you need a simple brush, but you also need a shedding tool as well.
Consider looking into a bristle brush, which is great for all coats and suitable for daily brushing. It looks like a human hairbrush with different stiffness on the bristles.
If your dog has curly fur, then a wire-pin brush is ideal. If your dog has tangles, or their fur tangles easily, a slicker brush with fine wire bristles suits you better.
During bath time, a rubber curry comb gets down to your dog's skin and removes dead hair.
Ask a groomer what tools to use on your dog's coat and how often. A groomer knows how to help you manage your dog's coat between appointments. Your groomer also provides you with the best advice on what products to use on your dog's fur and skin as well.
There are different shampoos for different seasons, including shedding season. When in doubt, ask your groomer or vet before you start using anything.
Use a shedding tool to remove large tufts of fur without damaging your dog's coat. These brushes are closely spaced, stainless steel tines that work on removing the undercoat. Some have shedding blades with serrated teeth to get through matting.
Do not use these tools unless you know how to use them. They are sharp and cutting your dog's skin is a risk if you don't understand how the tools work.
Above all else, keep your dog's comfort in mind. A lengthy repetitive motion irritates the dog and their skin.
Feed a Healthy Diet
Diet plays a huge role in keeping your dog's coat healthy. A dog eating a balanced and complete diet with the right vitamins and nutrients has a strong coat that resists hair breakage. Talk to your vet about your dog's diet to see if anything is missing.
Some dogs benefit from supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids promote healthy hair growth and support joint, heart, and immune health. Supplements support dogs who are missing out on key nutrients in their diet. If your dog is meeting their needs, then a supplement won't do much.
Another way to ensure a healthy diet is to make your dog food. It ensures you know what is going into your dog's body and it meets its requirements. Ask your vet if this is a good option for your dog's health.
Increase Water Intake
Pups need to stay hydrated! If they get dehydrated, bad things happen. Knowing how much your dog is drinking is tricky.
The general rule is that a dog needs an ounce of water per pound of body weight daily. A small dog around 10 pounds only needs a little over a cup of water a day. A bigger dog needs more water to stay hydrated.
Dehydrated skin is a major cause of hair loss. If your dog doesn't drink enough water on their own, consider rehydrating their kibble. It adds water without you hovering over them.
Splish Splash Bath Time
Bathing your dog not only cleans their coat but also removes dead hair. Deshedding shampoos and conditioners contain moisturizers and Omega-3 fatty acids that hydrate your dog's skin.
Hydrated skin allows for healthy fur growth. The products you use on your dog's skin affect their fur growth. The healthier the skin, the stronger the hair follicles.
Bathing your dog regularly and then grooming them keeps the tangles out. Even if you take your dog to a groomer, you need to bathe them yourself between sessions. It keeps your dog smelling good and reduces shedding by washing away loose hair.
The ASPCA recommends bathing your dog every three months. Depending on breed and activity level, your pup may need more or less bathing. In general, let your eyes and nose be the judge.
The ASPCA notes that dogs "with loose facial skin or wrinkles — such as shar peis and pugs — will need special attention. To prevent dirt and bacteria from causing irritation and infection, clean the folds with damp cotton. Always thoroughly dry the areas between the folds."
Talk to Your Vet
When in doubt, always seek a professional opinion. Some shedding is obviously due to your dog's habits. Parasites, fungal infections, and other illnesses need your vet's attention.
The old saying, "Better safe than sorry," rings true when it comes to excessive shedding.
Chronic scratching damages the follicles and leads to permanent hair loss. Don't wait to see if your dog stops scratching. Bring them into the office as soon as you see signs of excessive shedding.
Even if it is the simplest of fixes, it is far better to know than to get hit with something much bigger and scarier.
Make Time for Fun
Yes, regular brushing and grooming keep your dog's coat healthy. That's only one part of the benefits. It is also a great time to bond with your dog.
Follow up your grooming with a fun activity. After sitting for so long your dog is bound to have stored up some extra energy. Go for a walk or play a game of fetch after a groom to make the experience more enjoyable.
Fun also keeps your dog's stress levels down. Since stress is a trigger for excessive shedding, making time to play with your dog is key.
Play looks different for every dog. Some dogs love going out and chasing a ball, while others are content to binge-watch a TV show with you.
Let the Shedding Begin
Sitting down and taking care of your dog's grooming needs doesn't have to be just about brushing them. Take this time to do a general health check.
Look for any new cuts, bumps, dry skin spots, lesions, or anything abnormal to tell your vet. Being on top of your dog's health allows you to stay alert to anything that makes them shed more than normal.
Spring is right around the corner. Get your vacuums ready as shedding season is here. Make sure your tools are all set, and none need replacing before you start your grooming sessions. Have your treats ready and get started with the grooming process.
Don't fear shedding season! There are plenty of steps for you to take to make it go smoothly.
For more tips on care and info on your favorite breeds, look through other articles on BreedExpert.