OMG, there’s enough hair under the couch to make another dog!!!!  I know I’ve felt this way, but what is a normal amount of shedding?  Before we get into what is normal for shedding, we need to discuss a dog’s coat and its function.  The primary functions of canine coats are protection and insulation from heat or cold.   Some breeds will have coarse coats designed to protect them from brush when they are hunting.  Others have thick double coats to protect them in cold environments.  Regardless of the purpose, each coat will have three types of hair.  The primary coat is the outer layer and is usually long and coarse.  The secondary coat is the undercoat and is generally soft.  Finally, there are tactile hairs, like whiskers, which are used for sensing their environment.   

Shedding is normal for dogs and all dogs shed, including puppies.  It is how they get rid of dead and damaged hair making room for healthy new hair to grow.  Shedding can occur either seasonally or all the time.  Usually dogs that stay outdoors, such as strays, will shed seasonally in preparation for seasonal changes.  Dogs that shed all the time tend to be primarily indoor dogs.  Controlled temperature and artificial lighting don’t provide the signals that trigger seasonal shedding.  Health can also play a role in shedding.  Stress, anxiety, even pregnancy can impact how much a dog will shed.    

Different breeds will shed differently.  Breeds with heavy double coats are naturally heavy shedders.  Other breeds, like poodles, don’t turn their coats as quickly and don’t shed as much.  You may want to stop your dog from shedding but this is unrealistic because it is a natural occurrence.  You can, however, keep shedding under control.  Some of the things you can do are:   

  • Regular Brushing – Brushing helps to remove the loose, dead hair.  Frequency of brushing will depend how heavily your dog sheds.  Some may need daily brushing, others just once a week.
  • Regular bathing – Bathing also removes loose, dead hair and keeps it in once place.  Talk to your groomer or veterinarian about how often you should bathe your dog.  Some breeds will only need a monthly bath and other may need one every week or two.
  • Healthy diet – A good, nutritious diet is one of the most important things you can do for your dog’s health.  Obviously, fatty acids are essential for healthy skin and coats.  Omega-3s are typically the fatty acid that are supplemented.  Most quality foods will contain enough Omega-6 fats to meet the need for them.  You can also add in virgin or unrefined coconut oil.  It contains medium chain triglycerides which are excellent for healthy skin and coat.  Be careful on the dosage, too much can cause diarrhea. 

Abnormal shedding can occur when there are underlying health conditions such as:   

  • Stress
  • Allergies
  • External parasites
  • Malnutrition
  • Skin infections
  • Or hormonal imbalances such as hypothyroidism

If you suspect an underlying condition see your veterinarian.  Diagnosing and treating the underlying condition will not only improve shedding but also bring your pet back to a healthy condition.