How to Prevent Dog Shedding
How to Prevent Dog Shedding
Shedding is a natural, healthy process that can’t be stopped entirely. However, that doesn’t mean dog hair has to take over your home and cling to all your favorite outfits!
Below, we’ll cover some tips to help with dog shedding, so you can spend less time cleaning up dog hair and more quality time with your furry friend.
Causes of Excessive Shedding in Dogs
Shedding occurs when a dog’s body releases old, damaged or dead hair. Typically, this old fur is replaced by new fur. Although in some cases (such as with summer/winter coat changes), the fur remains thinner for a period of time.
The amount of natural shedding you’ll see varies drastically from dog to dog.
Some dogs—known as “hypoallergenic” breeds—hardly shed at all. Others, particularly breeds with a “double coat” (a thick undercoat in addition to the outer furs), can shed bucketfuls of fur at a time.
The most common causes of shedding in dogs include:
- A normal/natural process, which could happen year-round or seasonally.
- Breed and fur type.
- Stress, fear, or anxiousness.
- Poor diet or nutritional deficiencies.
- Medical causes (more on this below).
The amount of shedding varies by breed, fur type, the climate in which you live, and other factors. Therefore, the term “excessive” shedding is subjective. What may be an abnormal amount of shedding for one dog, could be perfectly natural for another dog.
It’s important to know what’s normal for your individual pup, because significant changes could indicate an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
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Health and Medical Conditions that May Cause Shedding
Even though shedding is a fact of life for dog owners, it’s also true that sometimes shedding can be a symptom of a health problem.
Typically, this would be noted as something outside of your dog’s normal shedding pattern. Maybe there’s a sudden, unexplained increase in shedding. Maybe your pup’s coat lost its shine or became dull and greasy. Or, maybe your pup is itchy with red skin.
One of the most common medical problems that leads to fur loss is an allergic skin condition, due to environmental allergens (pollen, etc.), flea bites, a food ingredient, or something else. This can cause itchiness, skin issues (redness, rashes, wounds, or infections), and even bald patches from itching and licking. The paws, ears, belly, armpits, and groin are commonly affected.
Other common conditions that may cause fur loss include hormonal imbalances, stress or anxiety (especially if a dog is excessively grooming themselves as a self-soothing behavior), sunburn, immune-mediated diseases, skin parasites, and skin infections.
Less commonly, a serious underlying disease such as organ dysfunction or even cancer could be to blame. Typically, this would be accompanied by other symptoms of illness. However, just like humans, dogs can get cancers that are limited to the skin, so it’s best to have any skin abnormalities checked by a vet.
How to Stop Dog Shedding
In addition to the convenience of not having a house coated with dog hair, reducing your dog’s shedding carries other benefits.
Maintaining a dog’s skin and coat hygiene is good for their overall health and helps prevent skin issues.
Additionally, shedding reduction can benefit humans in the household by decreasing exposure to allergens. People tend to be allergic to a dog’s dander or saliva rather than the hair. But reducing the spread of hair will also reduce the spread of those allergens.
Since shedding is a natural process, unfortunately that means there’s no “cure” for shedding—unless, of course, your dog’s shedding is due to a medical condition.
Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the amount of pet hair in your home. Here are some of the best ways to reduce dog shedding:
- Choose a breed that sheds less. Consider breeds such as a Poodle, Afghan Hound, Bichon Frise, Schnauzer—or even a hairless breed! The AKC offers more information on breeds that don’t shed (or at least, don’t shed very much).
- Learn more about your dog’s grooming needs. If you already have a dog in your home, look up your pet’s grooming requirements—which vary HUGELY between dog breeds. If you’ve rescued a lovely mixed breed dog from a shelter, try to figure out which breeds likely contributed to your dog’s individual makeup, and how those breeds affect their fur type. A dog DNA test, or a consultation with a groomer who can evaluate your pooch’s fur, could both be very helpful.
- Consult your veterinarian to rule out any medical conditions that need to be addressed, especially for sudden changes in the fur or if any symptoms of illness or discomfort accompany the shedding.
- Feed your pup a healthy diet that is nutritionally complete and balanced. This includes drinking enough water, too. In some cases, a dog food designed to support skin and coat health may be appropriate.
- Consider supplements designed for dogs, such as omega fatty acids for skin and coat health. These supplements may be included in certain dog foods, or administered separately as a pill or topical product. Some pet owners use fish oil or olive oil, but this shouldn’t be done without checking with your vet first. Too much oil or fat in the diet can cause serious issues (such as pancreatitis, which can be fatal, or significant weight gain). It’s best to check with your vet prior to giving any new medication or supplement, for your pup’s safety.
- Minimize stress as much as possible. If you feel your dog may have an anxiety issue, consult with your veterinarian for options to help.
- Use environmental control to minimize the dog hair in your home. Try an air filter to capture free-floating fur. Vacuum and wash linens often. Use furniture covers, which you can wash or quickly remove if company comes over. Keep hair rollers on hand for your clothing and furniture. If possible, consider changing your flooring from carpet to hardwood floors for easier fur cleanup.
- Vacuum your dog with a vacuum cleaner attachment. Obviously, this isn’t a good option for dogs who are terrified of the vacuum cleaner. But some dogs love being vacuumed! And it can help remove shedding fur.
- Develop a routine for skin and coat health for your individual dog. As mentioned above, it’s helpful to know your pup’s specific grooming needs, based on their breed and fur type. Here are some additional tips:
- Brush your dog so fur ends up on the brush rather than the floor or furniture. Daily brushing is best for many dogs, especially those with longer fur. But once or twice a week can also suffice.
- Select the right brush for your dog’s fur type. For example, a metal comb with longer tines may work well for a long-haired dog, while a pooch with short hair may do better with a shorter-bristled, soft brush that doesn’t dig into their skin. Also, some brushes serve specific purposes—such as a slicker brush for tangles, or a de-shedding tool for removing the undercoat.
- Make brushing time fun. Offer extra attention, praise, and treats, so your pup will look forward to being brushed and it will be an enjoyable bonding time.
- Brush your dog outside or in an easy-to-clean part of the home for simple cleanup.
- Bathe your dog. A bath helps keep a dog’s coat and skin healthy. Also, a good bath removes lots of shedding hair in one go. Choose a bathing frequency, and adjust as needed. For many dogs, this is every one to three months. But it’s okay to bathe your pup more often if they need it. Too frequently can dry the skin and coat, but usually up to once a week is safe. Use a gentle, soothing shampoo for skin and coat health. An aloe or oatmeal based shampoo is best. Avoid fragrances, which can irritate the skin, and human shampoos, which cause dry skin in dogs. If your pup needs a conditioner for detangling or moisturizing, you can also add that into their bathing routine. If you blow dry your dog, make sure to do so safely. Choose a product made for dogs. Or, use your blow dryer on low. To avoid burns, don’t use any hot air settings, and check the air on your own wrist to make sure it’s not getting too hot. Used correctly, a good dryer can help to remove some of that loose fur! Many groomers recommend brushing your dog before their bath, as well as after, once their fur has dried. This helps to remove even more shedding fur.
- Groom your dog. Many breeds require regular grooming appointments to keep their hair coat healthy and prevent tangles. Others can benefit from a seasonal de-shedding or another type of grooming plan. Schedule a consultation with a professional dog groomer to see what’s best for your pup. You can also learn to groom your dog at home (as many pet owners did during the pandemic). Consult with a professional dog groomer first for guidance and help with selecting the right tools. Shaving your dog down to the skin isn’t typically recommended. While it’s easy to think this might make dogs with thick coats (such as a Husky) more comfortable in warmer months, the opposite can be true. The hair coat provides protection from sunburn and insect bites. It can even hold cooler air close to the skin. So unless there is a true need (such as removing mats or tangles, or treating a medical problem like a skin infection or wound), it’s best to stick with de-shedding treatments and avoid a full shave down.
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When to Call the Vet
If your pup’s fur quality changes, their shedding suddenly increases, they show any symptoms of illness, or you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to check with your vet to rule out an underlying medical cause.
However, if your dog’s hair coat is otherwise healthy—shiny and full without any obvious abnormalities—there’s a good chance you’re dealing with normal shedding.
You love your dog, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to love having dog hair everywhere!
Start with some of the tips above to reduce dog shedding, so you can spend less time on fur cleanup duty and more time playing, cuddling, and bonding with your favorite pup.