Our pooches provide us with a lot of laughs, love and, depending on the breed, an impressive side of fallen hair! Shedding is a common trait among all dog breeds, so don't panic if an occasional dog hair tumbleweed blows across your floor. Understanding the reasons for both healthy and excessive shedding, as well as the ways to help control hair loss, can keep you and your pup living in peace.
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All dogs (yes, even hypoallergenic breeds!) naturally lose old or damaged hair. This process is an important part of keeping the coat shiny and healthy. How often this happens and how much hair is lost, however, depends on the type of dog, its health and the season.
Breeds like Golden Retrievers and Collies have double coats comprised of a soft undercoat and a coarser topcoat. While these dogs tend to shed year-round to some degree, serious bouts of shedding take place a couple times of year.
Dogs that appear not to shed, like Poodles and Schnauzers, have single coats with longer cycles of hair growth, so hair loss occurs much less frequently and in smaller volumes.
As you'd expect, seasonal shedding typically occurs when the weather transitions in the fall and spring. Significant seasonal temperature changes trigger hair follicles to release more hair. Dogs that remain almost exclusively indoors tend to shed more evenly throughout the year thanks to the climate controlled comfort of their homes.
Though some degree of shedding is normal, excessive shedding can signal health issues, so it's important to stay aware of your pup's hair loss. The more common causes stem from poor nutrition and stress, as well as medical conditions like allergies, bacterial infections and cancer.
How can you tell the difference between a normal shedding and an excessive, vet-worthy loss of hair? Keep an eye out for symptoms such as open sores, bald spots, constant scratching or licking, and skin irritation in the form of rashes, bumps or scabs. If you notice any of these accompanying an inordinate amount of shedding, contact a veterinarian.
Tips to Control Shedding
It's a sure thing that your dog is going to shed, but you can help minimize the fur bunnies with some simple maintenance tips.
• Regularly brush your pup. This not only collects shedding hair before it hits your floor or clings to your upholstery, but it also helps clean and soften your dog's coat.
• Feed your pet a healthy diet. Foods with a meat listed as the first ingredient and with minimal additives is a good start.
• Remove shed hair from your home ASAP. This translates to cleaning your house regularly. A thorough vacuuming can really minimize pet allergies by reducing both hair and dander. Adding an air purifier to the mix can provide more extensive allergy reduction.
• Keep up with regular vet checkups. Your pooch's doctor can catch skin issues, irritations and medical conditions before they result in excessive shedding.
Luckily, shedding is a side effect of dog ownership that's easy to accept. Pay attention to your pet's health to help ensure proper shedding, and minimize its annoyance by putting the tips into practice.
By Tara Hall
"Pet Care - Shedding" on ASPCA.org
"Why Do Dogs Shed?" on VetInfo.com
"Shed Control: 10 Tips" on drsfostersmith.com
"In What Months Do Dogs Shed the Most?" on TheNest.com
"Control Pets' Shedding" on MarthaStewart.com