Contributed by Dr. Alison Birken, owner and DVM of Victoria Park Animal Hospital.
As a small animal veterinarian practicing in hot South Florida, dog hair shedding is one of the most common concerns from my clients. By owning a 150-pound Saint Bernard that belongs in the Arctic, not on the sunny beaches of South Florida, I can totally relate with my pet parents’ frustration when it comes to dog hair shedding. So, why do our pets shed, and what can we do to help combat the mess from dog hair? How much hair shedding is normal, and when should we be concerned that there is a problem?
What Is Shedding?
Shedding hair is a natural and normal process in dogs and cats. Most pets shed, but there are dogs that don’t shed, which are hairless breeds. Hair shedding helps animals to get rid of their old winter coats, or summer coats, and promotes new, seasonally appropriate hair growth. Natural hair shedding is associated with diet, health, season, temperature, stresses and exposure to sunlight. Some uncommon reasons that pets shed are injury, trauma and malnutrition, so it is important to distinguish the difference between normal and unhealthy hair shedding. Every hair has a “life cycle,” with three phases and a predestined length. The anagen phase is when the hair is actively growing. In the catagen phase, hair growth stops. The telegen phase starts when the hair falls out and is replaced by new hair. This form of shedding is a normal process, and it’s usually the cause of my clients’ concern. Some breeds that have thick, protective coats, such as Huskies or Saint Bernards, undergo a process where all the hair from the undercoat falls out at once. This is known as “The Shed,” which generally happens two times per year.
Is Shedding More Common at Certain Times of the Year?
Before dogs became pets, hair shedding was restricted to spring and fall. Today, with domesticated dogs that live mainly indoors, dogs will usually shed moderately all year (especially in South Florida, where there are no major seasonal climate changes). Dogs may shed more heavily if they have allergies, poor nutrition and/or stress.
Finding Dogs That Don’t Shed as Much
Unless you have a hairless breed dog, “non-shedding breeds” do not exist. Even hairless breeds shed mildly, but there are other breeds that shed very little hair. This list includes some breeds of dogs that don’t shed as much:
- Coton de Tuléar
- Bichon Frisé
- Chinese Crested
- Havanese, Maltese
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Lhasa Apso, Pulimany
- Terriers (Boston, Jack Russell, Scottish, Yorkshire)
- Shih Tzu
- Doberman Pinscher
- Greyhound, Komondor
- Old English Sheepdog
- Peruvian Inca Orchid
- Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
Hair Shedding That’s Not Normal
As a small animal veterinarian, I see hair loss and skin disease that needs be addressed and treated all the time. I always advise my clients to have their pets evaluated by a veterinarian when they are seeing the following:
- Hair loss in patches
- Symmetrical hair loss on certain parts of the body
- Hair loss accompanied by skin irritation (redness, bumps, rashes, open sores or scabs)
- Bald spots or thinning of the coat
- Dull, dry hair that pulls out easily
- Constant foot licking or face rubbing
What Can I Do at Home to Help Decrease Hair Shedding?
Unfortunately, there is no way to completely stop the shedding, but there are ways to help reduce the amount of hair and mess around the house:
Routine Grooming Is Essential for All Dogs
Brushing or combing your dog’s hair daily will help to remove the dead hairs before they fall onto the floor. My number one recommended brush is the FURminator. I advise my clients to use this brush daily on their pets. The design of the edge allows the tool to push through the topcoat and easily and gently remove the undercoat and loose hair without cutting or damaging the dog’s skin. The FURminator comes in different sizes and types for different hair coats.
You can help control hair shedding before it happens by routinely bathing your pet with Nature’s Miracle Supreme Odor Contol Shampoo & Conditioner. This product provides exceptional cleaning, enhanced hair softness, reduced static electricity, and a long-term clean.
Omega-3 and 6 Fatty Acids
The Shed-X Dermaplex Shed Control Nutritional Supplement for dogs is pure omega-3 and 6 in an oil form that you place on top of your pet’s food daily. What is different with this product than other supplements is that it is an oil and allows you to dose your dog with the highest, yet safest, omega-3 and 6 fatty acid supplement advised. The higher dosing is what significantly decreases hair shedding. Another great supplement to help reduce dog hair shedding is American Journey Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil, which contains long-chain omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA that help promote skin and coat health.
I hope this article provides some much-needed tips on how to reduce the shedding and mess in your home. Although frustrating and messy, hair shedding is a normal and healthy process for our pets. We always want the best for them and to ensure their health and well-being. The trade-off for all the extra mess is the love and dedication these guys give back to us. A little cat or dog hair is worth the extra love! If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian. They are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.