Why Does My Dog Shed?
Does your dog shed? If so, you know that shedding comes with more than just unwanted hair. There’s the itching, the dandruff, the brushing…the list goes on!
Whether you’ve got a dog that sheds only a little or you’re keeping up with a dog shedding too much hair to contain, we’ve got some tips, tricks, and facts that will help you make it through shedding season. Some dogs shed over multiple shedding seasons, depending on breed! But first, let’s talk shedding basics.
What Causes Dog Shedding?
Dogs have coats for the same reason people have hair: to protect their delicate skin from sun damage and the elements. Just as people lose strands of hair after the hair follicle stops growing, dog hair shedding occurs after a dog’s hair stops growing. Certain breeds also have two distinct coats. Shedding in these breeds is actually a combination of losing their undercoat and discarded fur.
When do dogs shed? A lot of factors are involved – breed, season, stress – but in general, many dogs shed in the spring and sometimes in the fall, too. Some pet owners notice dog shedding in winter, summer or throughout the year; remember that excess shedding in dogs or shedding induced by anxiety or allergies might be cause to visit the vet.
It’s All About the Coat
Scientifically, most dogs have three specific types of hair on their bodies: undercoat, guard hair, and whiskers. Like all mammals, this hair is made up of dead skin cells and keratin.
The undercoat of a dog lies closest to the skin and is usually softer and fluffier than the other coats. It’s meant to protect the dog from cold. The guard hair – also known as the primary coat – is the fur we see in most dog breeds. It’s a little coarser, thicker, and longer than the undercoat. Whiskers are the hairs found on your dog’s face, eyelids, and snout that help him smell and find his way.
Dogs that have both a full undercoat and primary coat are known as “double-coated.” Cold weather breeds are typically double coated. Double coated dogs tend to shed more as their undercoat falls off each year, a holdover from a period when outside dogs had to lose hair to stay cooler in summer. Female dogs will drop their undercoat during heat. The overcoat – primary coat – doesn’t typically shed; instead, it grows until trimmed. That’s why dog’s whose hair is mostly made up of overcoat don’t seem to shed as much as double-coated dogs.
Excess Shedding in Dogs
Some shedding is normal, but what constitutes too much shedding? The first obvious sign of a dog shedding too much is a sharp increase in the amount or duration of shedding. If your dog usually sheds only in spring and suddenly starts shedding fur all year round, something might be amiss.
Another visible symptom of disordered shedding is fur patches or general hair loss in a dog. Fur that breaks, is brittle, falls out very easily, or visible bald patches likely isn’t just a dog shedding a lot but rather symptoms of an underlying health issue. Common warning signs include:
- Bald patches
- Dry, itchy spots on your dog’s skin
- Redness, bumps, or rashes on your dog’s skin
- Constant or excessive scratching
- Open sores on your dog’s skin
- Fur that is duller or dryer than nrmal
Your vet can discuss with you whether changes in your dog’s diet, mood, anxiety levels, or other factors could be contributing to a decline in health.
How to Stop Your Dog From Shedding
A better subject to explore would be how to control dog shedding. Regular shedding is simply a part of what makes most dogs dogs; it’s part of their genetic makeup. Although you can’t stop dog shedding, there are plenty of things you can do to control dog shedding and its impact on your life.
Read on for tips and tricks that will make both you and your shedding dog more comfortable all year round.
Controlling Excess Shedding in Dogs
As natural as it may be, shedding is annoying. Who wants to pull dog hair out of their mouth and lint roll their clothes every time the go out for entire months at a time? While there’s nothing you can do to stop dogs from shedding completely, there are plenty of strategies you can use to lessen the burden.
Using a Dog Shedding Brush
Shedding brushes are one of the most common solutions to excess dog shedding. Also known as a “deshedding tool,” a shedding brush is designed to remove only loose or already-shed fur from a dog’s coat. Brushes are generally designed for short, medium, or long-haired dogs, and some even feature multiple rows of teeth. Vets recommend you use a shedding brush on your dog at least once a day during periods of heavy shedding, and to do so outside. Discontinue use if your dog’s skin becomes irritated, red, or bloody.
Looking for a dog shedding brush? Here’s a list of the most popular models.
Using Dog Shedding Shampoo
Dog shedding shampoo and/or conditioner blends are a popular dog shedding remedy. Most blends contain some combination of omega fatty acids and other moisturizers that help hydrate your dog’s hair follicles. This makes the hair less likely to be brittle and likely to fall out. Be careful; dog shedding shampoo can actually make shedding worse for dogs with wiry undercoats, so talk to your vet before starting a new regimen.
Considering a dog shedding shampoo or conditioner? Here are a few that have received great reviews.
Using Shedding Supplements
Under the guidance of your vet, you may want to consider adding special dog shedding supplement or chewable to your dog’s diet. Most contain some combination of oil meant to add dietary fat to your pet’s system, usually in the form of omega 3 or omega 6 fatty acids. Supplements contain vitamins or other helpful compounds such as biotin. Be sure to talk to your dog’s veterinarian before adding any kind of supplement to his or her diet.
Thinking of trying shedding supplements? Talk to your vet about one of these popular options.
Cleaning Up Dog Shed
Regular – even daily – vacuuming can help remove dog hair shedding from carpet and flooring. Brushing your dog at least once a day helps remove already-shed hair when and where you want it rather than all over the house. Lint or tape rollers are an easy way to remove fur from surfaces like furniture, as are rubber fur removal brushes made specifically for that purpose. If you have allergies, take special precautions to change your HVAC filters frequently and vacuum and dust at least a few times a week to keep shedding dander at bay.
Dog Breeds that Shed the Least
The easiest way to stop dogs from shedding is to look into dog breeds that shed the least. Before you get too excited, you should know that ALL DOGS SHED. All dogs except the American Hairless Terrier, that is. Even so-called hypoallergenic dogs still shed a bit, and all dogs produce skin dander that can aggravate pet allergies.
Even “no shedding dogs” still shed a bit, and it’s important to remember there are trade-offs. Dogs that shed a lot actually do so because their hair grows quickly. No-shed dogs need to be groomed regularly to keep their slow-growing hair from matting, and they likely need to be brushed regularly to avoid tangles. Some dogs shed far more and far more often than others; here’s a look at the dog breeds that shed the least all year long.
- Yorkshire Terrier
Yorkies are small and their coats can grow long enough to drag on the ground with minimal shedding. Be sure to devote time each day to brushing, though, to avoid nasty tangles.
- Standard Poodle
The Standard Poodle’s thick, curly coat doesn’t make it a shedding dog, but it does make it a high maintenance one. Be ready to groom and brush often to keep this breed in tip-top shape.
- Shih Tzu
Shih Tzus make wonderful lap dogs and require very little maintenance. With regular grooming appointments and brushings a few times a week, you probably won’t notice any pet shedding.
With smooth, short fur, you might think the Whippet is a shedding dog. Not so. Whippets’ skin generally has enough oil to keep hair supple meaning they lose their strands infrequently.
- Bichon Frise
Much like the poodle, the Bichon has curly hair that’s prone to matting. With regular brushing and washing, though, these little balls of energy won’t leave much (if any) hair behind.
- Chinese Crested
These adorably-ugly guys are nearly hairless with the exception of their very furry faces. Brush their face manes often to keep from tangling but otherwise just enjoy the lack of dog shed in your home!
- Portuguese Water Dog
You recognize the name of this hypoallergenic breed because the Obama family has not one but two! These hairy pets may look like a dog shedding hassle waiting to happen, but they hang on to their coats all year round.
Other breeds that deserve honorable mention as dog breeds that shed the least include the Komondor, Basenji, Brussels Griffon, Chinese Shar-pei, Papillon, Maltese, and the Miniature Schnauzer.
Which Dogs Shed the Most?
Great follow up question! If you’re not committed to one of the dog breeds that shed the least, you should at minimum try to steer clear of the worst shedding dogs if shedding isn’t an issue you want to contend with.
As a general rule, dogs with double coats shed the most. Which breeds have double coats? Ones meant to live in particularly cold climates! If a breed has a word like “Eskimo” or “Alaskan” in its name, dog shedding will probably be something to consider. Experts say these particular breeds are known for shedding, many of them all year ‘round.
The Akita’s fluffy undercoat and nearly waterproof outercoat make it a natural swimmer, but all that extra fur has to come off sometime. Regular brushing and detangling helps to keep the Akita from matting.
- Chow Chow
One look at the Chow Chow and you can almost hear yourself Googling “how to stop my dogs shedding.” The Chow Chow’s thick, lustrous mane is soft and fun to pet, but it comes off by the handful. Prepare for a lot of vacuuming if you take in one of this breed.
- Bulldog (French and English)
Breeds such as the bulldog with a short, smooth coat can be deceptively good at shedding. Because there’s no outercoat to trap in fallen hair, smooth-coated breeds like the bulldog and the Boston Terrier actually kick up quite a bit of hair.
Lab shedding is one of the most common complaints from Labrador and Labrador-mix owners. Lots of energy means this breed sheds often, and its hair can end up all over the house (and the yard, and the car…) Despite being one of the worst shedding dogs in the world, the Lab is still the most popular breed in America.
Not only do Newfies have a bit of a shedding problem, they’ve got more surface area covered by fur than almost any other dog! Their coats are thick, flat, and heavy – dense enough that brushing them takes a little work – but they’re so gentle you won’t even mind.
- Siberian Husky
Huskies set the bar for extreme pet shedding. Because their thick doublecoat is designed specifically for the harshest climates in the world, Siberian Huskies take ‘excessive shedding’ to a new level. Continuous brushing is a must.
Some of the other worst shedding dogs to consider carefully include the American Eskimo, Pomeranian, Beagle, Border Collie, Samoyed, Shiba Inu, Golden Retriever, and the Dalmation.
Got a Dog Shedding Problem?
Like all animals, dogs are sensitive to changes in their diet, environment, or stress levels. It’s important to remember that shedding is a natural occurrence and there’s really nothing you can do to stop dog shedding altogether. That said, if you have concerns about how or how much your dog is shedding, be sure to consult your vet.
Is your dog shedding too much? Be sure to discuss your shedding experience with other pet owners in the comments section below.