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Breed & Health Resources

When is dog shedding season and why does it happen?

By Liz Palika

Sheltie being groomed

Most dogs grow a heavier coat during the winter as it helps protect them from the colder temperatures and unpleasant weather. Most breeds who shed do so in the spring and fall. Females, however, can also shed during or after their season, or during or after a pregnancy. Dogs who undergo surgery often shed after that also.

Seasonal dog shedding is normal; think of it as a renewal of the dog’s coat. However, the shedding will vary according to the type of coat a dog has.

Single-coated Dogs

Many breeds have what is called a single coat. These coats have one type of hair from the skin out. In many cases, single-coated dogs have a longer cycle of hair growth which means that while they do shed, they don’t seem to shed as much as dogs with undercoats. Here are some popular single-coated dog breeds:

 

Double-coated Dogs

Breeds with a double coat have two types of hairs. The hairs in the outer coat are called guard hairs. The undercoat is closer to the skin and is soft and fluffier than the outer coat. During shedding seasons, some of the guard hairs are lost but vast quantities of the undercoat will be shed. This is known as “coat blow.” Here are some popular double-coated dog breeds:

 

Grooming Your Dog During Shedding Season

You can’t keep a dog from shedding, but there are things you can do to make the amount of shedding less overwhelming. The first step should be brushing. No matter what kind of coat he has – short, medium, long, undercoat or not –the goal of regular combing and brushing during shedding seasons is to remove the loose hair so that the coat remains clean and healthy. But regular brushing can also help keep some of the hair out of your house.

Single coats can be groomed with a soft bristle brush or a rubber curry comb every other day. Many owners are amazed at how much hair dogs with a single coat can lose.

Dogs with a double coat usually need daily brushing during shedding season. This will help remove the loose hairs and prevent tangles and mats. Breeds with a thick, soft undercoat, can develop tangles and matts in the undercoat if the loose hairs remain in the coat.

After shedding season, brushing twice weekly is fine for many breeds, although dogs who play hard or get dirty may need more frequent grooming. When shedding begins again in the spring and fall, increase the combing and brushing.

Selecting a Grooming or Deshedding Tool for Your Dog

What type of tool you use to brush your dog depends on your dog’s coat. If you aren’t sure, ask a breeder or a local professional groomer. We’ve also compiled a list of some tools to tackle seasonal shedding. It’s important to make sure your grooming tools – brushes, slicker brushes, rakes, or combs – are gentle on the skin and do not scratch him or make him sore. Feel the tools with your fingers or brush them along your skin; if they hurt or scratch you, they will hurt your dog as well.

How to Brush Your Dog’s Coat

When brushing, the comb or brush needs to go through the coat to the skin. If you brush over the top of coat, the grooming tool will go through the guard hairs but not the undercoat. A grooming rake has long stiff teeth that will go through the coat; just be careful not to harm the skin underneath. Part the coat and work on one section at a time, from bottom to top. Then move to another section. If your dog gets impatient, take a few breaks.

Brush in the direction the hair grows. If you encounter a tangle or mat do not try and force the brush through it. Don’t pull the mat out either; that hurts. Instead, use your fingers to untangle the hair. If that doesn’t work, use a tiny dab of hair conditioner (yours is fine) and work that into the tangle, then comb it out. Larger and more stubborn mats might require a visit to a professional groomer. Shaving might be required as working out large mats can be difficult and painful.

Bathe, Condition, and Brush Again

After you have thoroughly brushed out most of the coat that is being shed, then it’s time for a bath. As you shampoo your dog, give him a fingertip massage so you can feel his coat and skin. If you feel a couple more tangles in the coat, make sure to work in some conditioner after you’ve rinsed the shampoo out.

The fingertip massage can also feel for any lumps, bumps, cuts, scratches, ticks, or other problems that might have been hidden under the winter coat. It’s often much easier to find these by feeling them with your fingers than it is to see them. Once you feel as issue, you can take care of it yourself or decide if a trip to the veterinarian is required.

After the massage, rinse out the shampoo. If your dog has a thick coat, a rinse of white vinegar (rubbed into the coat) and then rinsed out will make sure any remaining shampoo is gone. Shampoo that remains in the coat can cause skin irritation.

If your dog’s coat looks a little worse for wear after the winter weather and warm dry temperatures in the house, use a conditioner on his coat. Follow the directions as they vary according to the brand. Most are supposed to be worked into the coat and then ask you to wait a few minutes before rinsing.

Dry your dog with a towel and then keep him wrapped up in another dry towel for a little while if he’ll cooperate. Just make sure he doesn’t get cold as he’s drying. Some dogs will accept the blow dryer; if your dog does, set the temperature to warm rather than hot.

When your dog is washed, massaged, conditioned, and dried, it’s time to brush again. Bathing your dog loosens up any remaining winter coat so shedding will resume.

Spring Assessment

Spring is a good time to take a good look at your dog; not just his coat, but all of him. As you brush and bathe your dog, look at his ears. Are they clean? Has he been scratching at them? Are his eyes clean and healthy or do they look red? If he’s older, do his eyes look a little cloudy? How about his toenails; do they need to be trimmed? Examine him in detail all over and then, if needed, contact a professional groomer or your dog’s veterinarian for help.

Abnormal Dog Shedding and When to Worry

A healthy dog should have a shiny, clean coat no matter what type of coat he has. Regular combing or brushing can keep the coat clean and stimulate the skin’s oils that help keep both the skin and hair healthy.

Abnormal shedding can be a symptom of a disease or health problem. If your dog is losing too much of his coat – to the point that the skin is visible – talk to your veterinarian as this is not normal shedding. Your dog needs to visit the veterinarian also if the skin is red, scabby, if the hair is thinning in spots, or if your dog is chewing or scratching.

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