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How Much Shedding Is Too Much Shedding and What Does It Mean?

Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on September 14, 2018
Posted in Grooming

Visit a dog owner’s house and you may come face-to-face with furniture, clothes and carpeting covered in fur. Although it can be a nuisance, shedding in dogs is perfectly normal—it’s simply their process of removing dead or damaged hair from their coats. However, excessive shedding may be indicative of an underlying health problem.

Knowing your dog’s normal shedding pattern is important so you can spot the early signs of illness or stress.

There is no standard for shedding

The amount of hair dogs sheds naturally can vary wildly from one dog to another. Certain breeds tend to shed a lot of hair, such as Labrador retrievers, while others will hardly shed any hair at all.

Shedding can also change by the season. In winter, many dog breeds shed less because they develop thick coats of fur that keep them warm in the cold. When spring comes around, much of this excess fur will be shed so your dog can cool itself down more easily as temperatures rise. If your dog doesn’t go outside as often, it will probably have a more regular shedding pattern throughout the year.

Because shedding amounts can change throughout the year, you should keep an eye on your dog’s shedding as soon as you adopt it to develop a baseline pattern. This way, you can more easily tell if the amount of hair your dog is leaving around the house is normal or if it is a sign of illness and cause for concern.

Understanding excessive shedding

Excessive shedding is when your dog begins shedding much more hair than normal, outside of its regular shedding pattern. If your dog normally sheds very little in winter but suddenly begins losing lots of hair, there’s likely an underlying problem contributing to the hair loss. Additionally, excessive shedding may manifest as dull or dry hair, or the ability to pull hair out by the handful.

There are a lot of potential causes of excessive shedding in dogs, such as:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Overgrooming
  • Poor diet
  • Allergies
  • Improper grooming techniques
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Skin parasites like fleas or ticks
  • Fungal or bacterial infections
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Cancer

If you notice that your pet is shedding more than normal, examine it closely to see if there are any other signs of illness or infection. Also consider other factors that could contribute, such as recent lifestyle changes that may be causing your dog stress, what kind of dog food it eats and if it’s been grooming excessively lately. Sometimes, fixing one of these in-home factors can help rectify the shedding problem quickly.

Poor diet can cause your dog to receive fewer nutrients than it needs to keep its fur shiny and healthy. Switching from a cheap food that is low in vitamins and protein to one that is vitamin-rich can make a world of a difference for your pet’s coat.

Your pooch can get stressed from major changes in the home, such as a new pet or family member or changes in its routine. This stress may result in excessive shedding and over-grooming, which also causes hair loss. Taking more time to bond with your pet may help alleviate its stress and help it regulate its shedding.

Also consider the shampoo you use on your pet. Many owners use human shampoo to wash their dogs, but the chemicals in these shampoos can be extremely drying and damaging to your dog’s coat, causing hair loss. Your dog might also be allergic to chemicals or perfumes in the shampoo, causing a reaction that makes it shed more.

You should visit a vet if you think your dog is suffering from an illness or if you notice your dog developing skin problems such as hot spots, bumps or rashes on the skin or open sores or wounds. The vet will be able to determine whether your dog’s shedding is normal or if it has a medical condition that needs to be addressed and will then prescribe the best course of treatment.

Use a brush to manage shedding and make your pup happy

You can’t reduce the amount of hair your dog sheds, but you can use a brush to remove the dead hair before it falls off your dog. This helps keep your home cleaner while also making your dog more comfortable and improving circulation to the skin. Brush your pooch once a day for the best results and to bond with it more often.

Any major change in your dog’s routine or health should be a red flag for you to pay more attention to your pet and examine it for health problems. Paying attention to your dog’s shedding can help you identify early signs of illness or help it feel more comfortable at home by reducing its stress levels or giving it more nutritious food.

Read also: Spooked and Startled: How to Desensitize Your Dog to its Fears

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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