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Dog Shedding: Why It Happens and When To Worry

Pomeranian shedding while getting groomed
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We love our dogs. But their shedding? Not so much.

Shedding can range from being a manageable mess to being a never-ending quest to clean up dog hair from, well, everywhere.

Wherever your dog is on the shedding spectrum, we’re going to help you understand more about dog shedding. We’ll explain why dogs shed, which breeds shed the most (and least), how to manage the shedding, and what to do about excessive shedding. 

Why Do Dogs Shed?

Before answering this question, let’s first talk about the basics of a dog’s coat. The coat serves many purposes, including providing insulation from the winter’s cold temperatures and protection from the summer’s unrelenting heat and sunshine.  

A dog’s coat contains three hair types: primary, secondary, and tactile.

Primary hairs, which make up the outer coat, are long and coarse. Secondary hairs, which make up the undercoat, are soft. Tactile hairs, like whiskers, help dogs to sense things in their environments.

Now, we’ll answer the big reason for why dogs shed. Dogs shed to get rid of dead or damaged hairs, making room for new and healthy hair to grow in. 

Dogs will shed either seasonally or year-round. Outdoor dogs—who may be living as strays— tend to shed seasonally in the spring and fall. In the spring, these dogs will shed to have a lighter outer coat for the summer. In the fall, shedding allows for a thicker and warmer undercoat to grow in to prepare for the winter.

Indoor dogs usually shed year-round because the artificial heat and light inside a home don’t provide the seasonal ‘signals’ to control when the shedding occurs.

Heat and light aren’t the only factors controlling a dog’s shedding. Health plays a significant role, too. Stress, anxiety, and various health conditions can cause shedding. Interestingly, pregnancy can cause shedding because of a loss of calcium and other nutrients that support a healthy coat.

Do All Dogs Shed? 

Dog shedding hair on sofa

In a word, yes. Shedding is a normal occurrence in all dogs, but the rate and amount of shedding will vary among breeds and individuals within a breed. Breed characteristics, particularly coat type, play a significant role in how much a dog sheds.

Some breeds, like Poodles, have hair that doesn’t turn over quickly. These breeds won’t shed very much. 

You may think that breeds with longer and silkier hair, like Collies, are heavy shedders, but that’s not necessarily the case. Dogs with short and dense coats, such as Labrador Retrievers, tend to shed more than dogs with long hair.

Do Puppies Shed?

Indeed, they do! Puppies are born with a soft and fluffy coat that keeps their body temperature where it needs to be. Eventually, this coat will be shed and replaced by a thicker adult coat. Depending on the breed, the puppy will grow a single or double coat.

In some breeds, the adult coat will look drastically different than the puppy coat. For example, the coats of Dalmatian puppies have no spots, while adult Dalmatian coats are full of spots.

Puppies will usually begin shedding their puppy coat at around 4 to 6 months of age, but this shedding could start as early as 3 months of age. During the shedding process, a puppy may look a little unkempt until their adult coat comes in fully.

For some breeds, the adult coat takes a long time to come in. For Pomeranian puppies, it can take nearly two years to grow the adult coat.

Dog Breeds That Shed 

Golden Retriever getting groomed

Some breeds are naturally heavy shedders. Breeds such as Siberian Huskies and Akitas that have thick double coats to protect them from cold temperatures are heavy shedders. 

In the spring, these double-coated breeds take shedding to an entirely different level. To prepare for the summer, they blow their coat—a process that sheds the soft undercoat. The hair comes out in large clumps that resemble sheep’s wool and are enough to fill a large trash bag (or two).  

Here are some other dog breeds that shed a lot:

Dog Breeds That Shed the Least

Bichon Frise running in grass

Some dog breeds are bred to be light shedders. These low-shedding dogs are great for people who are allergic to pet dander, which is attached to a dog’s hair and gets released into the air during shedding.  

Low-shedding breeds are often called “hypoallergenic,” but this is a misnomer because all dogs shed and have some level of allergy-inducing dander in their hair.

Low-shedding dog breeds include:

  • Maltese
  • Irish Terrier
  • Bichon Frise
  • Afghan Hound
  • Giant Schnauzer
  • Miniature Poodle
  • American Hairless Terrier

How To Reduce Shedding in Dogs

Chow Chow getting a bath

If your dog is a heavy shedder, you may ask yourself, “How can I stop my dog from shedding?” Well, because shedding occurs naturally, you won’t be able to stop it from happening. Fortunately, you can reduce the shedding to make it more manageable. 

Let’s go through some dog-shedding remedies.

Regular Brushing

Brushing gets rid of the dead and damaged hair that was going to come out anyway. This hair will accumulate in the brush and on the floor near your dog, making clean up quick and easy.  Brushing also distributes healthy skin oils throughout your dog’s coat.

Heavy shedders should be brushed at least a few times a week, if not daily. Monthly brushings are usually sufficient for light shedders. Your veterinarian or grooming professional can advise you on how often you should brush your dog.

Make sure to pick the right brush for the job. For example, a bristle brush works well for coarse coats, while a pin brush is ideal for long and silky coats. Brushing gloves are also available. Whichever brush type you use, always brush in the direction of your dog’s hair growth.

Regular Bathing

Like brushing, bathing gets rid of dead or damaged hair and collects it in one place. Oatmeal shampoos are a great dog shampoo for shedding because they help to maintain a healthy and shiny coat. 

Ask your veterinarian about how often you should bathe your dog. Some dogs can get by with a monthly bath, while others need a bath every 1 to 2 weeks. 

Healthy Diet

A well-balanced diet that’s chock full of essential nutrients will help to maintain your dog’s coat and make shedding more manageable. Fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are part of that healthy diet. 

If not already included as an ingredient in your dog’s food, fatty acids can be given as supplements. For instance, Dinovite daily whole food supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids from ground flax seed, vitamin E, and a highly digestible form of zinc to support skin and coat health. Talk with your veterinarian if you’re unsure which fatty acid supplement to choose.

Coconut oil is another dietary remedy for reducing dog shedding. It contains fats called Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), which are good fats that promote healthy skin and coat. You can add coconut oil, ideally unrefined or virgin coconut oil, to your dog’s food. Your veterinarian can advise you on how much to add. Be aware that too much coconut oil can cause greasy stools or diarrhea.

Dog Shedding Suit

There’s been a lot of buzz about dog-shedding suits. These suits are designed to contain a dog’s shedding and are reportedly comfortable for a dog to wear.

These suits are safe, but your dog may not be a fan of wearing one. If your dog is squirming and looks uncomfortable in the suit, don’t force your dog to wear it. Instead, try one of the other strategies for reducing shedding.

Excessive Shedding in Dogs: When to Seek Help

Pet owner holding handful of dog hair

Not all shedding is normal. Excessive shedding often signals an underlying problem, including those listed below:

  • Stress
  • Malnutrition
  • Skin infections
  • Allergies (e.g., flea allergy)
  • External parasites (fleas, ticks, mites)
  • Hormonal imbalances (e.g., hypothyroidism)

Excessive shedding can lead to bald patches in a dog’s fur. It can also irritate the skin, leaving the skin with redness and bumps. 

If your dog is shedding more than usual and the skin is in bad shape, take your dog to your veterinarian for a thorough workup. Your veterinarian will perform various diagnostic tests to determine what’s causing the excessive hair loss. Once your veterinarian identifies the problem, they will prescribe the appropriate treatment. 

Treating the underlying condition will help to resolve the excessive shedding.

Dog Shedding: Staying on Top of It

Shedding is a normal occurrence in dogs and helps to keep a dog’s coat healthy. Develop a routine to manage your dog’s shedding and prevent your home from being taken over by your dog’s hair.

If the shedding is excessive and your dog’s skin looks unhealthy, consult with your veterinarian to determine what’s causing the problematic shedding and figure out the best treatment plan.