Sometimes it can seem like Fluffy's little shedding problem is taking over your house. There's fur on the furniture and fluff on the rug no matter how often you vacuum. However, the sooner you get accustomed to living with her shedding, the better. As it so happens, Fluffy's canine genetics have programmed her to shed for life, but there are steps you can take to keep her fuzz contained.
Shedding Throughout the Life Cycle
When she was born, Fluffy had a soft puppy coat consisting of undercoat hairs with no stiff guard hairs. She kept this coat with minimal shedding until about 6 months of age. At that point, her adult coat began to grow in and she started to exhibit lifelong mature shedding patterns. A healthy dog will shed normally into old age, but some medical conditions like hypothyroidism can cause older dogs to shed more or even lose their hair completely. For this reason, consult your vet if your dog's shedding pattern changes suddenly.
In a natural setting, dogs grow a dense undercoat in preparation for winter, and a thinner, shorter coat for summer. This leads to a biannual shedding cycle. As days lengthen and temperatures rise in the spring, the winter coat falls out, and as the days shorten in the fall, the summer coat is shed to make way for thicker fur. For outdoor dogs, a thorough grooming to remove the undercoat twice a year when it starts to shed may be all that's necessary for basic hair control.
If Fluffy is an indoor dog, you might think that only having to deal with shedding twice a year sounds like some sort of unattainable nirvana. Because artificial lighting and central heating and cooling confuses a dog's natural biorhythms, it's quite possible that Fluffy sheds fur year-round. The best way to control your house dog's hairy little problem is with regular brushing. Ask your vet or groomer to recommend the best kind of grooming tool for Fluffy's specific type of coat.
If you are thinking of adding a new pet to your household, consider a single-coated breed like a poodle to minimize shedding. A single-coated dog does not grow the short, dense undercoat found in double-coated breeds. Instead, most of the hair grows continuously and only falls out occasionally. This doesn't mean that a single-coated dog requires no grooming, however. Quite the opposite, in fact. To prevent the hair from becoming long and matted, have your single-coated dog clipped regularly by a professional groomer.
If you don't already own a dog and are not prepared to deal with excess fur, consider a hairless breed. Dogs like the Chinese crested, Mexican hairless, and American hairless terrier have a rather bizarre genetic mutation that renders many of them largely fur-free. Be aware, though, that these seemingly low-maintenance pooches may be prone to health issues related to their oddball genes, including tooth problems and skin problems. And of course, even a Chinese crested dog may leave the occasional crest hair on the couch.
By Rachel Steffan
Davidson College: General Thermoregulation of Dogs
Virginia Tech: Integument System II: Hair
The Merck Veterinary Manual: Hereditary Alopecia and Hypotrichosis
Royal Canin: Why Dogs Blow Coat
< ahref="Washington">http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/cliented/hypothyroidism.aspx">Washington State University: Hypothyroidism in Dogs
About the Author
Based in central Missouri, Rachel Steffan has been writing since 2005. She has contributed to several online publications, specializing in sustainable agriculture, food, health and nutrition. Steffan holds a Bachelor of Science in agriculture from Truman State University.