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  • Writer's pictureScarlett Bowman

Why Dogs Shed

Updated: Aug 25, 2022

Shedding is a natural process by which dogs lose their existing coat to allow a new coat to come in. Every dog sheds to some extent, some breeds more than others and there are pro’s and con’s to both. Light Shedders:

Breeds that are typically considered to be light shedders, such as Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, the Maltese, etc are generally also the breeds that require regular professional grooming to maintain their coats. Because these breeds tend to shed at a much slower rate, they are much more prone to matting. Which can lead to a variety of unhealthy skin conditions, such as bacteria growth between the mats and the skin, and blisters or sores if the mats develop on sensitive areas of the body. Of course a dog that requires regular professional grooming is going to cost more in the long run to own. The average cost would be around $40.00 every 6 weeks for the life of the pet to have them professionally groomed and keep the coat healthy and free of matting. If the average life span is 12 years then expect to spend between $3500-$4500 dollars during the course of their life for grooming.

The flip side to is that by having your pet groomed regularly by a professional it is more likely that issues that could affect the pets health will not only be avoided but those unrelated to grooming will be noticed sooner than would be expected from a dog that is not groomed regularly. Grooming by a true professional is more than just grooming, it’s like a mini check-up, ears are checked and cleaned, paws are checked and cleaned, teeth are checked and brushed, and the entire body from head to toe is touched or observed at one point during the grooming process. This helps bring to light items that might have gone unnoticed in a dog that is not groomed on a regular basis.

Shedders: Breeds typically known to be shedders include, The Akita, Great Pyrenees, Golden Retrievers, Labradors etc. A lot of this has to do with whether or not they have a double coat, having both a fluffy soft undercoat with a coarse outer coat, or a single coat which generally consists of just a coarse outer coat. The downside to dogs that are considered shedders, aside from the obvious that they shed a lot is that when a dog sheds it also sheds dander, and or any other items that it’s hair may have picked up in its travels including, dust, dirt, pollen, feces etc. Anything that is on the dogs hair on the dog is on the dogs hair on the floor, or couch or wherever it sheds.

Another concern with the shedding dogs is that they tend to break vacuum cleaners rather quickly, as the hairs of the longer coated breeds tend to tie themselves around the moving parts of the brush causing undue stress on the motor. The Dyson model vacuum cleaners seem to hold up the best, to this particular kind of abuse.

Having a dog that is a heavy shedder is not really that much of a problem as you can control 90% of the shedding with routine brushing and maintenance. A good brushing outdoors once a week tends to keep the shedding under control, and your house free of excessive hair. The other plus to these breeds is that they are typically lower maintenance and can be washed outside and left to dry on their own, without the need to spend hours drying them to prevent matting.

A good rule of thumb is that a dog that requires regular professional grooming will most likely not shed excessively, while dogs with shorter hair requiring regular brushing as opposed to haircuts will usually be double coated and tend to shed more.

The Factors That Cause Dog Shedding Why dogs Shed Dogs shed is the result of a culmination of factors, to include the changing of seasons, lighting, stress, health issues and lifestyle. One thing to understand is that dogs do not continually grow hair, but rather it grows in cycles with a growing phase, a transitional (shedding) phase, and a resting phase. These cycles are controlled by the factors listed above, with the greatest effect tending to be caused by the amount of light they are exposed to called the photoperiod.

The natural phases of shedding and growing would be that the growing phase typically occurs during the late summer months and early spring, following by the transitional or shedding phase as the old coat falls out in the late spring, and early fall months, during the middle of summer and winter the coat is generally in a resting phase where shedding is minimal.

However when your dog lives inside the home this natural cycle is disturbed as they are constantly exposed to changes in temperature and lighting that are in direct conflict with what nature has evolved their bodies to handle.

In the summer months when it would naturally be hot, the house dog enjoys air conditioning, and during the winter when the dogs brain expects it to be cool we have central heat, and as for regulating shedding cycles based on the shortening of daylight in the winter, the house dog lives in a world of artificial interior lighting that keeps their world illuminated when its supposed to be dark year round regardless of season. So it’s no wonder that their natural shedding cycle is disrupted and they tend to shed all year round.

It has also been shown that dogs that have been anesthetized for medical procedures will begin to shed their coat within two months following the procedure.

Stress is also a factor in shedding, if you have recently moved, or are going through tough times and the tension in the home runs high dogs will pick up on this and shedding will increase.

Females that have recently had puppies tend to shed their coat soon after as well.

Other factors can play into increased in shedding as well, the number of times the dog is bathed and types of shampoo used can cause an increase in shedding. Shampoo’s intended for human use will generally contain perfumes which can be hard on your pets skin causing allergic or hypersensitive reactions that increase shedding. While bathing too frequently will strip the coat of it’s naturally protective oils drying out the coat and increasing shedding as well.

Dog Shedding and Hair Loss What’s the Difference? Coat loss unlike shedding is not part of a natural life cycle, coat loss is generally caused by underlying medical conditions, Hereditary or Genetic factors, or Physical or Chemical damage to the coat.

The vast majority of coat loss is caused by the coat being physically or chemically damaged by bleaching (whitening products), products that contain alcohol (cheap spray conditioners), blow drying (with hair dryers intended for human use), or excessive combing and generally improper styling techniques. While coat loss as a result of genetic or heredity factors cannot be solved the vast majority of coat loss issues can with the use of proper diet, the right tools, and quality products designed for use on dogs.

Chemical Coat Damage Chemical related coat loss is caused by using products such as whiteners, products with alcohol, or using products such as laundry or dish washing detergent as shampoo, all of these will permanently cause damage that weakens that coat shaft, and thus making in many more times susceptible to breakage or splitting.

Physical Coat Damage Blow Dryers (the kind intended for human use) are also another major culprit in coat loss. Human Hair dryers can have reach temperatures in excess of 140 degrees enough to cause 2nd degree burns while heated units for pets only reach around 95 degrees on the highest setting and tend to blow with much higher force than the human variety further dissipating the heat. The high heat from human hair dryers can result in even the healthiest coat becoming so seriously damaged that it will split apart and break off. There is also the issue of safety to consider, your dog can’t tell you it’s getting a little warm until it’s to late and you have already caused them injury by burning not only their hair but their skin. It is advisable that you use only a force dryer with no heat or a blow dryer designed for pet use which does not have nearly the capacity to damage the hair or burn your pet.

Brushing to Excess or at the Wrong Times Excessive Combing or using the wrong type for the breed can damage the coat as well. Never brush a completely dry coat as this is the stage when the hair is most susceptible to splitting and breaking due to the fact that its lowest point of tensile strength and elasticity, First use a spray bottle and gently mist the coat with a quality coat conditioner or water to make it damp, not wet. You also never brush a coat that is completely wet, as this is the point when the dogs coat is at it’s maximum tensile strength and elasticity and brushing or combing while wet will cause the coat to stretch to its breaking point.

The best time to brush your dog is while you are using a forced air dryer or hair dryer designed for pet use to dry a wet coat. Or you may brush a dry coat only if you follow the previous instructions and pre mist the coat before brushing. Also always ensure that you brush the entire length of the coat shaft before removing the brush and re-entering the comb into the coat. Long deliberate strokes as opposed to short choppy ones help to prevent coat damage.

Excessive Bathing You are also likely to cause coat damage by scrubbing excessively during a bath, not just to the coat but to the skin of your pet. Dogs have natural oils in the skin that help to protect the coat, and the skin excessive scrubbing or using products not intended for pet use can cause these oils to be stripped away leaving a dry and brittle coat that is susceptible to breakage or falling out. Once this happens the end result can be devastating if the problem is allowed continue, and the longer it continues the more difficult it will be to correct. Ideally you should only bath your pet a maximum of once a month, and let nature do the rest. The more your fiddle with it, the more likely you are to damage it.

Medical Conditions and Medications that cause Coat Loss A wide range of medical conditions can cause coat loss including, anemia, thyroid conditions, scaling and dandruff, allergic reactions, rapid weight loss, fungus, hot spots, dermatitis, and inflammations to name a few.

Certain medications such as antibiotics, sedatives, cortisone, thyroid medications and antacids can cause the coat to be damaged as well. If these medications are a requirement for your pet to have a high quality of life, then expect that they will not have a show quality coat and may experience hair loss or patchiness. You also want to insure that if your pet is on these medications that you are extra careful while grooming them to prevent damage to the coat.

Diet Diet can also be a factor for pets experiencing coat loss, this can be cause be an iron deficiency, over intake of vitamin A, sudden dietary changes or a lack of essential fatty acids.

Genetic Coat Loss Even though this only applies to a relatively small percentage of pets with coat loss, it is usually caused by the breed itself, not by the breeding. The thicker the coat shaft of the breed the less likely it is to break, also the darker the coat the stronger the hair, with straight black and red being the strongest while white coats are more brittle. Curl and texture play a factor to with curly hair being more susceptible to breakage or splitting than straight hair and the curlier the hair the more easily it can be damaged.

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