Dog Shedding 101

Source: PetWave, Updated on October 27, 2016
Shedding
Shedding Guide:

Why Is There Hair Everywhere?

Shedding is one of the most common complaints of dog owners. Unfortunately, shedding is normal. It is influenced by nutrition, genetics, health, grooming and the length of daylight hours. Dogs tend to grow and shed their hair in cycles. Each cycle has a growth phase (anagen), a transitional phase (telogen) and a resting phase (catagen). Mature hair detaches from the base of the hair follicles during the telogen phase, and eventually new hair grows in its place. This is when shedding happens. The amount of ambient light, and changes in temperature, greatly influence how much a dog sheds. Dogs living in northern latitudes usually “blow their coats” twice a year, in the Spring and Fall. As the weather turns colder or warmer, and as the period of daylight shortens or lengthens, the dog’s brain sends different messages to the hair follicles. Hair grows more in summer when days are warm and long, and less in winter when days are short and cold. Dogs that are mainly kept indoors typically shed year-round.

Some breeds, including Poodles, Bedlington Terriers and Kerry Blue Terriers, have curly coats that rarely shed. This is the exception rather than the rule. It usually takes about 4 months for a dog’s full hair coat to grow, although there are differences in individuals and in breeds. Bitches tend to shed heavily 6 to 8 weeks after having a litter and when they are going through a heat cycle, due to hormonal influences.

How Can I Manage My Dog’s Shedding?

If you suspect that your pet's hair loss is abnormal, you should first consult your veterinarian. If a thorough physical examination indicates that your pet is healthy, steps can be taken to minimize the effects of shedding. Diet is very important to the health of the skin and hair coat. Supplements such as cod liver oil are unnecessary if a complete and balanced diet is fed. If the diet is questionable, it is best to change over to one that is well- balanced. Nutritional supplements such as omega fatty acids can help reduce shedding if the cause of the shedding is related to a fatty acid deficiency.

Daily brushing is good for the hair coat and will remove those hairs that would normally fall out. From a housekeeping point of view, it is better to have the hairs come out on the brush than around the house.

Frequency of bathing and the type of shampoo used can also factor into the amount of shedding that occurs. Using a human-type shampoo, for example, can cause excessive shedding because these shampoos can be quite harsh to a pet's skin and perfumes can cause hypersensitivity reactions. Bathing too frequently can dry out the hair coat and cause excessive shedding.

Stress can also play a role in hair shedding. It is quite common for dogs and cats to start losing excessive amounts of hair during a visit to the veterinarian. This is because of the effects of the stress hormones that are released into the bloodstream.

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