Is your dog’s spring shedding normal?
Excessive shedding in the spring is common in double-coated breeds, as loose hair blows out from their dense undercoats. However, not all hair loss is caused by shedding. Read on to learn:
- What is shedding?
- Is my dog’s shedding normal?
- Can shedding be prevented?
- How can hair loss be treated by a vet?
Shedding occurs in dogs of all coat types as dead hair is replaced with healthy, new hair growth. Some dogs shed year-round, while others shed seasonally in the spring and fall. Regular brushing is usually enough to manage normal shedding, but there are warning signs for abnormal hair loss that dog owners need to watch out for.
Why do dogs shed?
Shedding is a natural and healthy process that occurs when dead hair is replaced by healthy, new hair. Shedding in dogs can also occur in the spring and late fall as their coat changes to prepare for the upcoming season. Some dogs shed year-round, while others shed seasonally twice a year. Sometimes excessive shedding occurs in response to a stressful event, such as pregnancy or surgery.
What is seasonal shedding?
“Even though most dogs shed a lot on a daily basis, seasonal shedding refers to especially heavy shedding in response to a seasonal weather change,” explains Dr. Jo Myers, a veterinarian at Vetster. “Spring shedding can seem especially excessive as the warm, heavy winter coat is lost.” Double-coated breeds blow their coat, meaning their dense undercoat pokes out in tufts of loose hair and comes out in large volumes. Single-coated breeds can also shed heavily, but they tend to shed year-round rather than on a seasonal basis.
Is my dog’s excessive shedding normal?
Dogs who shed seasonally often appear to have excessive hair loss, which can worry some owners. Even year-round shedding can become quite heavy for some dogs. Different dogs, breeds, and coat types shed at different rates and remain completely healthy despite the alarming amount of loose fur found around the home. When hair loss is abnormal, there are other signs and symptoms to look out for.
When is hair loss abnormal in dogs?
Various medical conditions can cause abnormal shedding and hair loss. Signs of abnormal shedding include:
- Bald patches
- Itchy skin
- Unusual areas of very thin hair
- A foul odor
- Skin irritation, sores, flakiness, or crustiness
- Abnormally dull fur or hair breakage
Healthy shedding doesn’t result in bald patches or areas of abnormally thin hair. The skin remains healthy underneath, even if large volumes of fur are shed. Various health issues and skin conditions can lead to abnormal shedding in dogs, including:
- Bacterial or fungal skin infections
- Skin allergies
- External parasites
- Injury to the skin
- Extreme stress
- Malnutrition or poor diet
- Endocrine disorders
- Skin cancer
- Various genetic skin disorders
While some of these conditions usually show other symptoms that are more significant than hair loss, it’s important to talk to a vet any time you notice a change in your dog’s skin or coat health, even if they appear otherwise healthy. Various conditions, such as fungal infections, only affect your dog’s skin and do not cause any changes in behavior.
Can I prevent my dog’s heavy shedding?
Normal shedding, even if it seems excessive, cannot be prevented and is something many dog owners simply have to live with. However, the amount of fur in the home can be minimized in various ways to help pet parents through the shedding season. Visit a dog groomer and establish a home grooming routine using the correct grooming tools in a contained area, such as a bathroom or enclosed porch. It is not recommended to groom your double-coated dog outdoors and allow the fur to float away, as it can be dangerous for birds and other wildlife nesting in the spring.
While normal shedding is a natural process, unhealthy hair loss can be prevented by:
- Staying on year-round parasite prevention
- Doing regular wellness checks and testing
- Providing a well-balanced diet
- Managing stress at home
- Managing allergies with a veterinarian
Flea allergy dermatitis is one of the most common conditions that affect a dog’s skin, resulting in excessive scratching and hair loss. Using year-round flea prevention is the most effective way to prevent flea allergies. Regular visits with a vet can also help catch underlying medical conditions early before they begin to affect the skin and fur.
How do veterinarians treat excessive hair loss in dogs?
Normal shedding does not need treatment, as it is a healthy and natural process that all dogs go through, but it isn’t always easy to tell the difference between normal shedding and excessive shedding due to an illness. First, a vet may suggest diagnostic testing such as blood work and skin scrapes to determine the cause of the symptoms. Many conditions that cause skin issues have similar symptoms but require vastly different treatments, so determining what is causing a dog’s symptoms is crucial. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, treatments may include:
- Allergy medication
- Flea treatment and control
- Diet change
- Antibiotics or antifungals
- Medicated shampoos
Dogs with conditions that cause abnormal hair loss and poor skin health usually regain their healthy coats after treatment. A vet may also recommend consulting with a professional groomer to help control natural excess shedding. If you are concerned about your dog’s excessive spring shedding or you suspect your furry friend’s hair loss is abnormal, you can book an online virtual care appointment with a Vetster veterinarian who can help.
FAQ - Is your dog’s spring shedding normal?
What does it mean when a dog is shedding more than usual?
Some dogs naturally shed more in the spring or fall compared to the rest of the year. If a dog is experiencing hair loss outside of their normal shedding pattern, talk to a vet to determine the cause. There are many health issues that can cause poor skin and coat health.
What months do dogs shed the most?
Some dogs can shed heavily year-round, while others shed most heavily in the late fall and spring months. Dogs with double coats shed excessively during these months, as their undercoat blows out and is replaced with a new undercoat in preparation for the upcoming summer or winter season.
When should I be concerned about my dog’s shedding?
Normal shedding does not change the healthy appearance of the coat, and healthy skin is seen underneath. If you notice bald patches, sores on the skin, skin irritation, or other concerning symptoms, talk to a vet to determine the cause.
What breeds of dogs shed the most?
Breeds with double coats, such as Labrador retrievers, Siberian huskies, German shepherds, and bichon frises, shed the most. Dogs with a single coat can shed heavily throughout the year as well. Single-coated breeds that shed excessively include Dobermans, boxers, dachshunds, and dalmatians.
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