Dogs and shedding hair

All dogs shed at some point in their lives – it’s perfectly natural and usually nothing to worry about. Some dogs shed continuously throughout their life, and others on a more seasonal or cyclical basis – this is known as moulting. Some breeds shed more than others due to the type of coat they have, and some shed considerably less to the point of being seen as non-shedding dogs.

Why is my dog shedding or moulting?

Dogs are always on some sort of seasonal cycle, changing their behaviours in line with the seasons and changes to the weather and daylight hours. Historically, it was much more obvious and there was a greater need for a ‘winter coat’, especially for working dogs that were bred for specific duties. Sledding dogs, for example, would develop a thicker coat over winter, and moult as the days got warmer in spring and summer.

These days dogs spend more time indoors, living in homes with central heating, meaning that these traditional cycles are interrupted. For many dogs this isn’t too much of an issue, but some breeds, like the St Bernard, golden retriever and husky, now shed all the time.

How can I manage my dog’s shedding?

There’s no way to stop your dog shedding or moulting, but regular grooming and brushing of the coat can help keep it under control – making sure the hair is collected onto a brush rather than left all over your home. It’s important to know which sort of coat your dog has so you can find the correct way to groom them:

  • Smooth coat – short, close to the body and requires minimal grooming. Breeds with smooth coats include the dachshund, doberman and bull terrier.
  • Double coat – a thick coat hidden under a thinner top coat. Double-coated dogs require fairly regular brushing to remove the moulting undercoat. Breeds include husky, German shepherd and chow-chow.
  • Wire coat – a rough, harsh top coat with a soft coat underneath. They can be quite susceptible to matting and tangling so also need regular grooming. Breeds include most terriers and schnauzers.
  • Wool – fluffy and curly, a wool coat grows quickly, mats easily and sheds less, so requires lots of regular, even daily, grooming. Breeds include poodle and bichon frise.
  • Long coat – this is the most susceptible to matting and tangling which can be painful for your dog. Requires the most regular grooming, both brushing and washing. Breeds include Yorkshire terrier, shih tzu and Afghan hound.
  • Combination coat – due to the increased number of mixed breeds, combination coats are much more prevalent and might include elements of different coats. Common breeds include labradoodle and cockapoo.

What else can cause my dog to lose their hair?

Most instances of shedding and hair loss are perfectly natural and nothing to worry about. But there are a few other reasons that could cause your dog to lose their hair that would be better checked by a vet.

Diet

A change to diet can result in your dog losing hair. Sometimes this is for good reasons – your dog is growing a new, better coat as a result of a better diet. However, it can also be a negative side-effect of their diet, caused by allergies, itching, scratching and losing hair in specific areas. We can help with that, creating a unique recipe tailored to help reduce allergic reactions and relieve itchy and sensitive skin.

Stress

Stress and anxiety can lead to your dog losing hair, either all over or in specific areas of the body. It can be caused by changes to their routine or circumstances (for example, it’s not uncommon for dogs to shed after moving home). This will often stop as your dog becomes more used to their new situation, but if it doesn’t we recommend you speak to your vet to help alleviate the anxiety.

Parasites

Your dog may also lose hair if they have parasites, especially fleas. Some dogs are afflicted by Flea Allergic Dermatitis (FAD) and get so itchy that they start biting their hair off. It’s best to get your dog checked by the vet if your dog:

  • is itchy in certain areas like paws, ears, face or rump
  • has red, inflamed skin under their elbows or belly
  • has broken skin from itching which is at risk of bacterial or fungal infections

Hormonal disease

If your dog is losing hair in a somewhat symmetrical manner, with the same odd hair-loss pattern on both sides of their body, this could indicate hormonal disease. Again, your vet is best to diagnose and treat.

Are there any non-shedding dogs?

Some breeds like poodles and bichon frises are often seen as non-shedding dogs. It isn’t strictly true as they do still shed, but a lot less than other breeds. This makes them much more suitable for those allergic to dog hair – or, to be more precise, the dander (skin cells) that can be spread by shedding hair – as less hair (and thus less dander) is left around the home or on yourself when stroking or holding your dog. For those of us with an allergy to dander, this reduced shedding really is often enough to make all the difference!

It’s also why they’ve earned a reputation for being hypoallergenic, and why they’re so commonly crossed with other breeds. Reduced shedding is a desirable trait that can be bred into mixed breeds like cavapoos, cockapoos, labradoodles and more, meaning a much wider choice of hypoallergenic dogs to suit more homes and lifestyles.

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