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Why Is My Dog Shedding So Much?

Dogs depend on their fur for shielding their skin, maintaining body temperature, and safeguarding internal organs from extreme temperatures. Similar to our daily hair loss, shedding is a natural occurrence in pets. Certain breeds of dogs and cats shed more than others, particularly during seasonal transitions.

However, excessive shedding in dogs might indicate an underlying disease or illness necessitating veterinary attention. Thus, it’s crucial to recognize your dog’s typical shedding pattern and understand the steps to take if your dog is shedding excessively.

What Is Normal Dog Shedding?

Determining what constitutes “normal” shedding for your pet varies based on numerous factors such as breed, anatomy, physiology, and genetics, according to insights from Roy Cruzen, DVM in Phoenix. It’s advisable for pet owners to establish their dog’s typical shedding pattern upon welcoming them into the family.

Contrary to popular belief, long-haired dogs aren’t necessarily the biggest shedders. In reality, short-haired dogs often possess denser coats and tend to shed more, although the length of their hair may make it less noticeable.

While there are no strict rules, some dogs naturally shed heavily, as Cruzen highlights. For instance, Labrador Retrievers are notorious for their shedding tendencies. Cruzen humorously remarks that whenever a Lab visits the vet clinic, a quick vacuuming session becomes necessary due to the abundance of hair covering the floor.

Additionally, certain breeds are known for their high shedding rates, including Akitas, Chow Chows, Dalmatians, German Shepherds, and Siberian Huskies.

Causes

When you observe your dog shedding more than usual, several factors could be contributing to this phenomenon.

One of the initial steps to take is to inspect your dog’s coat. Does it exhibit a healthy shine? Is the skin beneath the fur in a normal condition, or does it appear flaky, dry, or discolored? Dull, dry, or broken hair could indicate an underlying medical issue, prompting you to reach out to your veterinarian for further evaluation.

Seasonal Changes

Certain breeds of dogs, particularly those with double coats, undergo seasonal shedding, with the highest shedding rates typically observed during the early spring and early fall. Additionally, dogs may shed more in reaction to changes in temperature or their level of exposure to sunlight.

As the warmer months draw near, dogs shed their winter undercoats to make way for a lighter summer coat. Conversely, as colder months approach, dogs shed their lighter undercoats and develop thicker, warmer coats suitable for winter.

Feeding an Imbalanced Diet

The primary cause of excessive shedding in dogs often stems from an imbalanced diet, as noted by Cruzen. “Many people purchase inexpensive food from discount stores, noticing a subsequent increase in their pet’s shedding,” he explains. “While the food may meet minimum quality requirements, it might lack sufficient protein or nutrients for your pet.”

Opt for high-quality dog food that adheres to the nutritional standards outlined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Selecting the right food for your dog depends on factors such as their age, lifestyle, and health. Consulting with your veterinarian will assist you in finding the most suitable option.

Food Intolerance or Allergies

Food allergies or intolerances frequently lead to excessive shedding in dogs. These conditions often manifest as itchy skin and skin infections, exacerbating shedding and potentially causing areas of complete hair loss in affected dogs.

Additionally, environmental allergies, such as those triggered by pollen, grass, or dander, can significantly increase shedding in dogs. Therefore, it’s crucial to consult your veterinarian about any changes in your dog’s coat before considering a switch to allergy-friendly dog food. The underlying issue may not necessarily be related to their diet.

Using the Wrong Shampoo

If you notice excessive shedding in your dog and suspect that food quality, intolerances, or allergies aren’t the cause, it’s essential to examine your grooming practices.

Avoid using human shampoo on your dog as it can be too abrasive for their skin and coat, potentially leading to increased shedding, flaking, and even skin infections. Instead, opt for a shampoo specifically formulated for dogs, ensuring thorough rinsing to remove all residue from your pup’s coat.

Stress

Stress, whether from a sudden alteration in routine or the addition of a new family member to the household, can lead to excessive shedding in dogs. Additionally, you may observe heightened shedding during events such as fireworks, thunderstorms, or visits to the vet, which trigger the body’s stress response.

While the precise reason for dogs shedding when stressed isn’t fully understood, it’s believed to be linked to epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, which serves as the body’s primary stress hormone.

Skin Parasites

If your dog is experiencing increased shedding along with excessive scratching, it could be a sign of infestation by fleas, ticks, or mange mites. These parasites, along with the resulting itching and scratching, can lead to more severe health issues such as skin inflammation and secondary skin infections.

It’s essential for all dogs to receive year-round flea and tick preventatives. Since these parasites can be transported on clothing or enter through screened windows and doors, it’s important to administer preventatives to all pets in the household, including indoor cats. Consult your veterinarian to determine the most effective flea and tick medications for your dog.

Hormonal Imbalances, Tumors, and Other Underlying Diseases

Excessive shedding in dogs could indicate hormonal imbalances, with some experiencing increased shedding following childbirth or after undergoing spaying or neutering procedures.

Furthermore, shedding occurring in specific areas of the body, shedding in clumps, and skin discoloration might signify various serious conditions, including:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Ringworm and other fungal infections
  • Thyroid disease
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Skin allergies

When To See a Vet About Your Dog’s Shedding

If your dog’s shedding is causing additional problems such as hair loss or abnormalities in the skin, it’s advisable to have them examined by a veterinarian for proper evaluation and treatment. Seek veterinary attention if your dog’s shedding has become excessive, especially outside of the typical high-shedding seasons of early spring or fall.

Visit the vet if you observe any accompanying symptoms alongside the shedding, including:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Weight gain
  • Visible parasites on the skin
  • Excessive itching

When in doubt about whether your dog’s shedding is normal, consulting with a vet is always a prudent choice.

Excessive Shedding in Dogs FAQs

When should I be concerned about my dog shedding?

If your dog is shedding excessively and experiencing additional symptoms like complete hair loss, itchy skin, skin lesions, or changes in weight or behavior, it’s advisable to consult a veterinarian. These could indicate an underlying medical condition.

What months do dogs shed the most?

During the early spring and early summer, dogs, particularly those with dense double coats, typically experience the most significant shedding.

How can I stop my dog from shedding so much hair?

Although shedding cannot be completely eliminated, regularly bathing and brushing your dog with tools such as a slicker brush, FURminator, or hand mitt can help remove dead hairs before they are shed.

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