Shedding is an everyday occurrence for dogs, but excessive shedding may be a symptom of an underlying health problem.
The common causes behind excessive shedding are temperature and moisture changes, internal body changes, nutrient deficiencies, stress and mental distress, parasite infection, lack of grooming, and health problems.
Your vet is the best source to help you pinpoint the causes behind excessive shedding and provide the proper treatment.
You walk into your living room, and it looks like a fur tornado touched down. Dog hair is everywhere! Even though all dogs shed to some extent, why is your dog shedding as if they are cloning another dog? Is this level of shedding normal?
This article discusses why dogs shed, the causes behind excessive shedding, the symptoms, and solutions to prevent and stop excessive shedding.
Why Do Dogs Shed?
To understand why dogs lose hair, it's essential to recognize the role of your dog's fur. It keeps your dog warm during winter and traps in cool hair during summertime. It also protects their skin from UV radiation, wind gusts, insects, and dirt. Just like you, your furry friends constantly cycle between losing hair and growing new ones.
Why Do Some Dogs Shed More Than Others?
Contrary to popular belief, your dog's shedding is not reliant on the length of their coats. Instead, it varies more between breeds. While grooming a longhaired dog may briefly decrease the amount of fur they shed and make tidying up easier for you in the short-term, it doesn't mean it won't still drop fur- just at a lower rate.
In truth, even though double-coat dogs shed more in volume, shorter hair dogs shed much more often than their longhaired cousins.
Factors That Affect Shedding Rate
Humans change their wardrobe according to the weather changes. In the summertime, you wear lighter clothing; in wintertime, you wear thicker coats.
The same theory applies to dogs. During wintertime, they grow out their fur to keep themselves warm. Once it gets warm, the temperature change stimulates their hair follicles to produce a thinner coat and push out the old thicker one. As a result, most dogs experience intense shedding twice a year during spring and fall.
Whether a dog has a single or double coat affects their shedding rate. Double-coat dogs' top layers — also known as guard coats — tend to be longer hairs that protect the undercoat. The guard hairs are usually dense and coarse, while the undercoat consists of softer, shorter hair to keep your pooch warm during winter.
Because of their double-layer coats, certain breeds come off as heavy furball monsters. If you plan on adopting a German shepherd, Labrador retriever, Siberian husky, golden retriever, Bernese mountain dog, or Samoyed, get ready for all the fur even when it is not spring or fall.
What About Cross Breeds?
When you adopt a cross-breed dog, you are rolling the dice on which parent's genetics they inherit. Some puppies may shed more than their siblings even within the same litter.
As your dog gets older, you may notice an increase in shedding. This change is normal. As they move from puppyhood to adulthood, they tend to shed their puppy coat in favor of their adult coat, which is thicker and denser than their puppy coat. If you notice your puppy shedding more often, chances are they're just transitioning into adulthood.
What Causes Abnormal Shedding?
Aside from seasonal changes and age, many other factors may trigger shedding. Hormonal changes, diet changes, humidity levels, stress levels, parasites, grooming habits, and health issues may all trigger shedding changes.
Hormonal changes directly affect shedding. As dogs enter puberty, their hormones begin to fluctuate as they mature. The fluctuation usually increases shedding frequency. Female dogs are more susceptible to shedding when they near their heat cycles and during pregnancy. However, as dogs become seniors, their hormone levels drop, resulting in less shedding.
Neutering and spaying also affect shedding frequency. After the procedure, both males and females may experience excessive shedding until their hormonal level returns to normal. Excessive shedding is much more pronounced when pooches undergo procedures when they are older.
Changes in diet may also cause shedding. Many commercial dog foods contain additives and fillers that increase sebum production, resulting in abnormal shedding.
Humidity Level Fluctuation
High humidity levels may trigger increased shedding. When the air is too humid, it creates an environment where bacteria, allergens, and fungi thrive. All these irritate the dog's skin, causing them to shed more frequently than usual.
When it comes to shedding, stress is one of the most overlooked factors. Any stressful events, such as constant isolation, moving to a new home, welcoming a new family member, or even changing owners, may cause the pooch to shed more often.
Infestation of parasites may absorb too many nutrients from your furry friend. As a result, they suffer from excessive shedding. The most common parasites are fleas, ticks, mites, giardia, coccidia, toxoplasma, roundworm, tapeworm, heartworm, and hookworm.
Not keeping up with regular grooming may also contribute to excessive shedding. When your dog's fur becomes matted and filthy with debris, your pooch may often scratch themselves and trigger excess sebum release. The two create a downward spiral, leading to even worse shedding.
Excessive dog shedding isn't just annoying. It may indicate that your pup suffers from an underlying health issue. Allergies, infections, intestinal problems, and even cancer may contribute to excessive shedding.
One of the most common health problems is canine seborrhea, also known as seborrhoeic dermatitis. When their hair follicles' glands secrete too much sebum, the extra secretion causes the skin to become oily, red, and itchy.
Symptoms of Excessive Shedding
Even though you may feel that your dog sheds a lot, how do you tell if your dog truly suffers from excessive shedding?
Learn about the following symptoms of excessive shedding and keep a watchful eye on your canine.
Bald Spots or Severely Thinning Coat
One of the most obvious signs of excessive shedding is bald spots or severely thinning patches on the dog's coat. At first, the thinning patches may be small. Eventually, the bald spots may accompany skin irritation — redness, bumps, rashes, and/or scabs.
Constantly Scratching and Biting Themselves
The excessive shedding often results from your pup constantly scratching and biting themselves, trying to soothe their skin irritation. You may notice them always going for their armpits and legs at first. The scratching may eventually spread to their chests.
Dander are tiny flakes of dead skin cells and pet hair. Even if your dog's fur may not have any lingering dander left on the surface, you may see a lot of sand-like flakes in places where they sleep and lie around your home.
Changes in Coat Color and Texture
You probably snuggle with your furry friend every day. You must know how their coat usually feels. If you suddenly notice the fur looking dull and dry, and the texture feels extremely brittle, it usually means that the problem is no longer in its initial stage.
Common Mistakes Made by Owners in Treating Shedding
Keeping the shedding at bay may be a headache. While many ways exist to help alleviate the problem, some methods may do more harm than good. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when keeping your pet's coat looking beautiful.
Shaving Down the Coat
American Kennel Club's chief veterinary officer, Dr. Jerry Klein, explains that "shaving that coat to reduce shedding or supposedly to keep the dog cool also eliminates that insulating layer of fur makes the dog susceptible to heat stroke and may result in improper hair growth and the possibility of follicle damage. A dog's fur coat protects him from sunburn and decreases his risk of developing skin cancer."
For some breeds, shaving down their fur causes irreparable damage to their coat structure. This is especially a huge problem for breeds with double-layer coats, such as German shepherds, golden retrievers, and most other Nordic and ancient breeds. Their fur sometimes never grows back to its original length and texture, and the damage may also cause severe ingrown hair problems.
Using Wrong Shampoos
All pet owners want their dogs to smell fresh and clean. However, using human shampoo or brands that use a lot of harsh chemicals and fragrances, may strip your pooch's coat of its natural oils. The chemicals may also irritate the skin and cause additional shedding. The best way to clean a dog's fur is by using dog shampoo formulated with natural oils and ingredients.
Switching Diet Too Quickly
Switching your pet's diet too quickly is never a good idea. Your dog's digestive system needs time to adjust to new ingredients. The sudden change may also cause allergies and trigger excessive shedding. The practice is to gradually introduce a new food over at least two weeks so that your dog has enough time to adjust to the change.
How To Survive Shedding Seasons with Your Furry Friends
Every furry pooch won't stop shedding. Although you may always find their fur on your clothes and furniture, there are ways to minimize the problem.
Regular Vet Checkup
Sometimes, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to shedding. Regular checkups allow your vet to catch any health problems before it causes even more complications. Instead of trial by error, your pooch is in much better hands if you take them to the vet and ask for advice on dealing with the shedding problem. With thorough blood work results and physical examination, your vet has all the information to pinpoint the cause and provide the proper treatment.
Regular Grooming Routine
Believe it or not, regular grooming goes a long way in reducing shedding. Daily brushing always makes a big difference, removing loose hair and debris from your fur baby's body. Regularly bathing your dog helps eliminate excess sebum secretion and dead skin cells that contribute to the shedding process.
Use Deshedding Tools
There are special brushes that remove loose fur from dogs with thick coats. Some of these tools even thin out the coat, so the dog has less fur and lower bacterial growth risk.
Keep Your Home Well-Ventilated
Some dogs, such as German shepherds, huskies, and Samoyeds, do not deal well with heat and moisture. Having your room well-ventilated and kept at a comfortable temperature drastically lowers the risk of your dog developing heat spots and skin irritation from fungal infection.
Choose the Right Food
What you put into your pet is as important as what you do with their coats. Feeding them a healthy diet enriched with vitamins, minerals, and essential fat is key for keeping their skin healthy and preventing excessive shedding. If in doubt, look for food formulas specifically designed for dogs with allergies or sensitive stomachs because they usually contain fewer ingredients that may cause irritation and shedding problems.
Incorporate Omega-3 Fish Oil in Their Food
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to a dog's health. These fats boost their immune system while keeping their coats and skin in optimal condition. Zinc and Vitamin E also play an important role in keeping excessive shedding at bay. However, before you contemplate giving your furball any supplements, it's best to consult with your vet first since over-supplementing may cause internal damage.
Exercise Is Key to a Healthy Pooch
Although physical health is integral to your dog's health, their psychological well-being is equally important. The best way to ensure your pup remains stress-free and happy is by engaging them in regular exercises, such as going for walks, playing with their toys, or enrolling them in agility training. The endorphins released during active activities help boost their mood and overall health.
Never Fear About Excessive Shedding Again
Although various factors may cause excessive shedding, there are many ways to help your dog thrive and survive during shedding seasons. The most important thing is recognizing the signs, finding the cause, and acting quickly. The sooner you identify the root cause, the better chances that your fur baby stays healthy and happy throughout each season.