Have you ever left a friend’s house and your once black pants are now looking like you rolled around in a pile of dog hair? It may be hard to believe that so much hair came from such a small dog, who is still covered in locks. We know that most dogs shed to some degree, some more than others. But why do some dogs tend to shed so much more than others? Is there such a thing as shedding too much? Can dog owners minimize the amount of hair shed or is possible that the excessive dog shedding is trying to tell dog owners that something might be wrong?
Why Do Dogs Shed
Shedding is a normal, healthy routine that the dog’s body performs naturally. A dog’s fur coat protects the skin from sun damage and helps to control the temperature of the dog. When the dog’s hair stops growing, the body will typically shed the old, dead hair follicles in preparation for growing more hair.
To shed is defined as to lose (hair) as a means of making way for new hair or to lose hair as a result of age or disease. In this article, we will address all three possibilities.
How Much Shedding is Normal
A “normal” amount of shedding may vary greatly from one dog to the next. Generally speaking, the amount and frequency that dogs shed are of one or more of three reasons: breed, health condition, and climate.
Breed of Dog
The breed of the dog typically has a lot to do with the amount of hair that they will naturally shed. For this reason, certain dogs are specifically bred to shed as little as possible for individuals with sensitivities to their fur (or for people who don’t want to vacuum every day). You may have heard the term “hypoallergenic dogs,” which more or less means that the dog breeds shed a minimal amount of hair and are better suited for individuals with severe allergies. (Unless the dog is completely hairless, it will still shed a small amount of fur allergens)
Breeds of dogs that are notoriously heavy shedders include:
- Border Collies
- Labrador Retrievers
- German Shepherds
- Golden Retrievers
- Cardigan Welsh Corgi
- Chow Chow
- Siberian Husky
Low Shedding Dogs | Non Shedding Dogs
There are many dog breeds that may be ideal for someone who wants low-shedding dogs or non-shedding dog breeds.
The breeds include:
- Bedlington Terrier
- Bichon Frise
- Chinese Crested
- Coton de Tulear
- Irish Water Spaniel
- Kerry Blue Terrier
- Portuguese Water Dog
- Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
- Shih Tzu
- American Hairless Terrier
- Afghan Hound
- Peruvian Inca Orchid (Hairless)
Climate | Seasonal Changes
The climate and seasonal changes will affect some dogs much more than others, particularly double-coated dogs. Dogs with a double coat usually shed what is known as their “undercoats” during the spring and fall seasons. In some breeds, this dog shedding can be very heavy. Dog owners should make sure they know what is normal for their dog in order to be able to recognize if their dog is ever shedding excessively.
Additionally, other dogs (even those known to shed) aren’t affected by the seasonal changes. Some dogs, especially if they are kept indoors, will shed evenly all year long.
Furthermore, the overall health condition of the dog can affect hair loss. For instance, some factors such as age or pregnancy come with an amount of hair loss that is typically higher than usual, but natural and expected.
However, if your dog is shedding more than their usual amount, and especially if you notice your dog is shedding excessively, there is often a health condition to blame.
Why is My Dog Shedding Excessively
While shedding is normal in most breeds, excessive dog shedding may be an underlying sign of a potentially serious condition.
Anxiety or Stress
A change in your dog’s living environment can lead to excessive hair loss from the associated stress. It is not uncommon for dogs to have physiological responses to anxiety or distress from situations such as moving or a death in the family.
Dogs are incredibly sensitive creatures. Pet owners should assume that if something is stressing them out, it is probably affecting their dog as well. If anxiety and/or stress is at the root of your dog’s excessive hair loss, some extra loving and nutritional supplements should help your dog’s hair grow back. Of course, determining the cause of the stress (if it isn’t already clear) will also be necessary to prevent it in the future.
Skin Disorders and Irritations
Additionally, there are several skin conditions that can lead to excessive shedding. These skin conditions include:
- Parasites / a parasitic infestation (fleas, lice or mites)
- Fungal or bacterial infections
- Self-induced injury due to licking
Furthermore, if any of the following skin sensitivities persist for over a week it is recommended to see a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis of the irritation.
- Redness, bumps, rashes or scabs on the skin
- Any varying kind of open sores
- Bald spots
- Thinning of coat
- Dull, dry hair that pulls out easily from petting or brushing
- Constant scratching
- Persistent foot licking
- Repeated face rubbing
Internal or External Diseases
Excessive hair loss or shedding is a common symptom of the following diseases:
- Cancer (nearly every kind of cancer can lead to excessive shedding)
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Thyroid disease
- Adrenal disease (including Cushing’s disease)
- Immune disease
Your dog’s excessive shedding may be a result of hormonal imbalances such as Hypothyroidism.
Additionally, over-production or under-production of hormones including testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone can result in excessive dog shedding.
As we previously mentioned, if a dog is pregnant or lactating, the hormonal change is known to cause hair loss. However, if the dog is excessing shedding the owner should have them checked by a vet. Many times the dog will greatly benefit from an additional dietary supplement during this time.
Allergic reactions to certain dog food as well as allergies to inhalants such as household cleaners or a new shampoo can also result in excessive shedding.
The best way for dog owners to determine if the excessive shedding is being caused by an allergic reaction is through the process of elimination. We recommend doing this with the help and guidance of your veterinarian.
Managing Dog Shedding
While there is not a way to prevent normal, healthy shedding from occurring, there are ways for dog owners to manage and minimize the amount of loose hair covering their furniture and clothes.
Dog Shedding Brush
Owners of heavy shedding dogs may want to consider purchasing a grooming tool that will reduce shedding. Dog owners should follow the directions of whatever tool they decide to purchase as some require a backward stroke to first remove any dead hair follicles. The deshedding tools currently on the market have dog owners raving about the results they see after just one grooming session.
Short Hair Dogs
For dogs with short hair (i.e. Beagles or Pugs), a natural-bristle brush or a glove brush with bristles will be able to do a great job at removing loose hair.
Dog owners love the products from a company called Furminator. Just check out the reviews for yourself!
Long Hair Dogs
For dogs with long hair, especially double-coated breeds with a heavy undercoat (i.e. Pomeranians and Collies), we recommend this grooming tools once again from the favorited company, Furminator.
Even if your dog doesn’t naturally shed a lot, it is important for pet owners to regularly groom and brush them. The frequency of grooming will most likely depend on their coat
Finally, proper nutrition is essential for all aspects of a healthy dog. Without a well-balanced diet, excessive shedding may be the least of your dog’s problems. Whenever possible we recommend a species appropriate raw diet in order to ensure that your four-legged companion is getting the necessary nutrition they need.
Dog Shedding: The Bottom Line
We can understand that dog shedding may be a bit of a nuisance. Unless you love vacuuming or have an undying love for being covered in dog hair, it can get a bit old, especially during shedding season. However, it is important for dog owners to recognize that excessive dog shedding can be a tell-tale sign that their dog may have an underlying ailment. We know you want what’s best for your fur baby, no matter how much hair you’re covered in on a daily basis. Be sure to know what is “normal” for your pup and seek veterinary attention if that ever changes.