Dec 15 2015

It’s winter. Why is my pet shedding so much?

Just as the falling and sprouting of leaves is seasonal, so it is with an animal’s shedding process. As the days get shorter, more leaves are on the ground… and more of your pet’s fur is on the floor. On the other hand, increasing day length in the spring stimulates hair growth.

Cats and dogs that are indoors most of the time will shed more lightly and regularly throughout the year because their temperature and light are controlled. But if your cat or dog spends most of his or her time outdoors, you’ll likely notice quite a bit more shedding each spring and winter.

The most fur falls in the spring

Shedding is controlled by hormonal changes that are affected by changes in daylight. As the days get shorter, many dogs and cats shed their summer coats so a heavier, thicker, protective coat can grow in for the winter. Though the coat that is shedding is the lighter summer coat, it can still be surprising to pet owners that their pet is shedding so much just before the winter.

In the spring, the winter coat sheds to make way for the lighter, summer coat. The difference in the two seasonal events is that, because the winter coat is much thicker, there will be much more fur falling in the spring.

Not all that shed, shed the same

The amount of shedding varies widely from breed to breed. If a dog has a double-layered coat, the undercoat tends to be much thicker in the winter as well. A double coat has one soft undercoat that serves as insulation and a coarser topcoat that helps repel water and shield off dirt.

Kelly Kirk, DVM, from Jacksonville, Fla., says, “Double-coated breeds, such as collies, Australian shepherds, and huskies, tend to be the worst shedders due to their heavy undercoat.”

Dogs with a double coat usually drop their undercoats twice a year, while their topcoat falls once a year. If both coats shed at once, the fur comes out in tufts, which is called “blowing a coat.” Single-coated dogs don’t have an insulating undercoat, so there is not as much shedding.

Generally, a pet’s shedding process can take anywhere from three to eight weeks.

Fur usually wins, but you can still play a fair game

No matter how hard you try, you’ll generally be chasing fur balls around the house and removing fur from your clothes.

“Unfortunately there is no way to prevent shedding in dogs,” Kirk says. “However, the best way to control excessive shedding is to brush your pet daily. There are brushes that are made specifically for removing the undercoat, which will greatly reduce the amount of tumbleweeds flying around the house.”

Consider a regular and frequent schedule of brushing your dog or cat. Work against the grain and close to the skin to catch as much of the ready-to-fall fur as possible. The more you comb off, the less that will end up on your floor, furniture, and clothes. Regular bathing for dogs also helps remove most of the loose hair as shedding occurs. Cats take care of this part themselves.

Pay attention to the patterns

Become familiar with your pet’s normal pattern of shedding. Sometimes excessive shedding is the result of poor nutrition, stress, or a medical problem.

If you notice skin irritation, open sores, excessive scratching, constant foot licking or face rubbing, bald spots, thinning of coat, or a dull/dry coat, be sure to check in with your veterinarian.

 

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