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Dog Hair Everywhere: Understanding Dog Shedding

Different types of dogs with different fur types will shed different amounts, but excessive shedding may be caused by allergies or other skin infections.

A close-up shot of a white dog lying on a brown sofa, surrounded by tufts of white dog fur.

Different types of dogs with different fur types will shed different amounts, but excessive shedding may be caused by allergies or other skin infections.

By: Dr. Juli, DVM  @itsDrJuli 

If your home, clothes, or car are constantly covered with layers of dog hair, you are not alone. For many pet parents, one of the less desirable parts of dog ownership is the constant vacuuming and lint rolling of hair left behind by your furry best friend.

Shedding is common for most dogs and can be a good barometer for your dog's health, inside and out. Similar to hair loss in people, many factors affect the amount of fur your dog sheds. Many pet parents are constantly searching for a new remedy or way to reduce the constant buildup of pet fur in their environment. But it's critical to understand the cause of your pup's shedding, types of dog fur, and ways to ensure your dog's coat remains healthy.

A close-up shot of a white dog lying on a brown sofa, surrounded by tufts of white dog fur.

Why Do Dogs Shed?

Shedding is a normal physiologic function for most dogs. It is the primary way the body rids itself of broken or old hair follicles that have stopped growing. Your dog's fur coat serves multiple purposes, including protecting the skin from the sun or environmental factors and insulating the body from extreme cold or heat.

Like humans, the amount and type of shedding can vary and is affected by several factors, including breed, environment, climate, age, season, health status, diet, and behavior.

Types of Dog Fur

Understanding your dog's fur type can also explain how much they may shed throughout the year. The three main fur coat types include:

Continuously Growing Fur

Dog breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers, Shih Tzus, and Poodles,  tend to have minimal shedding. However, they may require more grooming to keep their fur from covering their eyes and becoming unkempt.

A grayish-brown poodle sits on a woman’s lap.

Double-Coated Fur and Longer Coats

Dogs with double fur coats have an outer coat of guard hairs and an undercoat of finer hair that provides insulation. In most cases, these dogs will have two heavier shedding cycles that coincide with seasonal changes.

However, they will likely have some degree of shedding year-round. Double-coated breeds and long-haired breeds include German Shepherds, Alaskan Malamutes, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, Border Collies, and Chow Chows. If you are allergic to dogs, these heavy shedders may not be the right breeds for you.

A German Shepherd dog with its tongue out.

Short Fur

Hair growth and shedding is not always as noticeable in shorter-haired breeds because of the fur length. However, these breeds will often have low levels of shedding year-round. Short fur breeds include Pugs, Boxers, Beagles, Boston Terriers, and French Bulldogs. While no dog is truly hypoallergenic, these breeds may be the best option for allergy sufferers.

A Boston Terrier dog stands in a field of grass and looks at the camera.

What is a Normal Amount of Shedding?

There is no one-fur-fits-all guide to the amount of shedding your dog will experience. Like people, the degree of hair loss is unique to each dog. Begin monitoring your dog's shedding patterns when they are young so that subtle changes are more evident as they age. Healthy skin and fur are also positive indicators of expected shedding frequency.

Ensure your dog's coat and skin exhibits the following characteristics:

  • Free of flakes, dandruff, or scabbing
  • Shiny and smooth fur
  • Non-greasy
  • Free of mats 
  • Skin that is clear and not red or discolored

What Counts as Excessive Shedding?

Excessive shedding may not be immediately apparent to pet parents, especially in homes with automatic vacuums constantly sweeping the floors. However, it's time for a veterinary examination if your pup is exhibiting any of the following signs, which could be associated with excess shedding or hair loss:

  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Patches of missing hair anywhere on the body
  • Scabbing on the skin
  • Flakey, dry skin
  • Dull or greasy fur coat
  • Matted coat
  • Constant scratching or licking
  • Areas of dark or discolored skin or fur
  • Increased urination and/or thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased energy
  • Increased panting that is not associated with exercise
  • Chronic vomiting or diarrhea
  • Fur that is easily pulled out

Causes of Excessive Shedding

Understanding and monitoring your pet's shedding when they are healthy will help pet owners recognize when their furry best friend is less furry. Hair loss or abnormal shedding can indicate a variety of underlying health issues or skin conditions, including the following:

Infection

Bacterial or fungal infections, like ringworm, can cause patchy areas of hair loss or excess shedding throughout your dog's coat. Pets with skin infections will often have inflamed or discolored skin and itching. 

Parasites

External parasites, like fleas, ticks, and mange mites, can cause pets to shed excessively, putting them at risk for secondary skin infections due to chronic scratching. Additionally, gastrointestinal (GI) parasite infections can lead to chronic diarrhea, affecting your pet's skin and coat health. 

Hormonal Imbalances

Diseases affecting your dog's hormones, including hypothyroidism and Cushing's disease, can cause hair loss or excess shedding. Additionally, pets who have been recently sterilized may have temporary changes in their shedding due to changes in their hormones.  

Allergies

Food allergies, flea allergies, seasonal allergies, and atopy are common causes of hair loss in dogs. Pups suffering from allergic reactions may exhibit other signs, including excess licking, itching, biting, scratching, and red, inflamed skin.

A black scruffy dog sits in a field and scratches himself.

Other Underlying Diseases

Your pet's coat is a window to their internal health. Excess hair loss can indicate other less apparent conditions, including cancer, liver disease, kidney disease, immune disorders, and GI problems.  

Poor Diet

Feeding your dog a low-quality or imbalanced diet can affect overall health and prevent their organs, skin, and fur from properly functioning. Ensure to provide your pet an AAFCO-approved diet for their age and breed so that they receive the required nutrients for proper organ function.

Stress

Most dogs thrive on consistency, so changes in their daily routine can lead to increased shedding. You may notice your pup shedding excessively during visits to the vet or groomer because this is a common stress response. A calming supplement can help ease your dog's anxiety before a known stressful event, which may help reduce the amount they shed.  

Improper Grooming Tools

The pH of your dog's skin differs from a human's, so never use human-formulated shampoos on your pup unless directed to by your veterinarian. Most human products are too harsh for your dog and may contain ingredients that are toxic to pets. Always consult your veterinarian before using any new shampoo or grooming product on your pet's coat. 

How to Maintain a Healthy Coat Year-Round

Some shedding is normal and vital to your pup's health and comfort. However, there are ways to keep your pup's skin and coat healthy while decreasing the chances of them creating a matching fur coat for their favorite human. Follow these tips to keep your house cleaner and your dog's coat healthier:

  • Bring your dog for yearly or more frequent veterinary visits to ensure they remain healthy.
  • Give your dog a veterinary-approved parasite prevention medication.
  • Feed your pup an AAFCO-approved complete and balanced diet for their age and breed.
  • Provide your pup with skin and coat-supporting supplements that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Regularly brush your dog's fur to help reduce the amount of daily shedding. Regular brushing is also a great way to bond with your pet and check their skin and coat for problems. 
  • Bathe your dog when they are undergoing seasonal shedding or when their fur becomes soiled. Natural oils are vital for your dog's coat health, and most healthy dogs will only need a bath every few weeks. 
  • Ensure your dog is adequately hydrated. Dehydration affects overall health, including your dog's fur and skin. Always have fresh, clean water available, and try adding Bone Broth to their water or dog food to encourage them to drink more.

A dog watches as Native Pet Omega Oil is pumped onto its food.

For more tips on your pet's health, check out the Native Pet blog.

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