All dogs shed. All of them. Some, like Labradors or German Shepherds, shed a lot, while other, like Poodles shed only a very little. Some breeds shed only seasonally while others shed all year long. I am going to help you understand more about the dog shedding in general, when you should be worry about the excessive shedding, what can cause excessive shedding and how to minimize it.
Just like humans hair, a dogs hair grows all the time and just like our hair, even the dogs fur have natural life cycle. There are four cycles of hair growth, the anagen, catagen, telogen and exogen.
Anagen is the active hair growth stage. This is where the hair keeps growing until it reaches its genetically predetermined length.
Catagen is a transitional phase when the hair stops growing and an outer sheath attaches to the hair strand.
Telogen is the resting phase and finally the exogen is when the hair falls out to make room for another strand. This is the shedding phase.
Duration of each phase is a reason for the ammount of dogs shedding. The breeds that shed only a little like Poodles have dominant anagen cycle, which means that the actual growth stage is much longer than in other breeds. Sometimes the anagen cycle is so long, that the hair grows continuously, which is why many breeds need trimming very often and why they are almost non shedding.
Duration of each phase is not only determined by genetics, as factors like health, climate and nutrition plays a big role as well. But genetics are the most important factor.
And to answer one frequently asked question – Do really all dogs shed? Or are they some completely non shedding dogs? Well, all dogs really shed as all dogs coats go through the same hair life cycle. So yes, all of them shed at least a little bit and there is no such thing as completely hypoallergenic dog. But it is true that some dogs shed only a very very little.
The shedding have very practical reasons and most wild dogs or dogs that evolved by natural selection will shed quite a lot. The dogs coat consists of different layers, there are primary hair which make up the outer coat, than there are the dense and soft secondary hair, also known as undercoat and than there are tactile hair, which helps the dog to sense things. The typical example of tactile hair are whiskers.
Most dogs will shed to either prepare for climate change, which is why many dogs shed seasonally in spring and autumn or to replace damaged hair for new ones. When the dogs are preparing for climate change, 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.
And all dogs must replace the damaged hair for new ones, as the coat must remain healthy to provide its important functions. These functions are mainly protection from heat and cold, sun and water. The coat also keeps your dog's body temperature regulated.
So the shedding is natural. Different dogs will shed different ammount of fur, but there is nothing wrong with the actual shedding. But not all shedding is normal and excessive shedding often signals an underlying health problem. It is important to know the baseline shedding of your furry friend, so you'll notice any changes in hair loss.
If you notice that your dog started shedding more, maybe you will notice stray hairs here and there or maybe you might notice bald spots and patches on your dogs fur. All these things can be sign of a health issue and you should visit the veterinarian who will identify the problem and start the treatment.
The typical health issues and problems causing excessive shedding are stress and nutrition, which can be fixed quite easily, but it can be also skin infection, different allergies, parasites like fleas, ticks or mites or hormonal imbalance like hypothyroidism.
So if your dog sheds a lot, but he was always shedding a lot during his life, there is nothing to be worry about, but if you will notice that your dog started to shed much more than he did before, you should contact veterinarian.
And how can you help your dog to minimize the shedding? Well, healthy diet and stressful environment definitely helps, but the only real way how to minimize the shedding by a lot is by regular brushing. If your dog sheds a lot, you can even brush the coat several times a day to minimize it.
Regular brushing will remove all the dead and loose hair. You can also try to bath your dog, as it will do the same thing – get rid of dead or damaged hair and collects it in one place. But i would not recommend you to bath your dog very often, as it can also damage the coat.