There are lots of great things about summer; from the constant sunshine and backyard barbecues to the super satisfying ice-cream cones on the hotter days. Shedding in dogs is another seasonal occurrence and it affects both the canine and the owner. Some dogs are really obvious about it and drop fur in amounts large enough to knit socks from while others have longer coat-growing cycles and thus are super discreet about it, making the transition sometimes barely noticeable at all. No matter how much we love our four-legged family members, the hairy mess they sometimes leave behind during the changing of the seasons could frustrate the most patient dog-loving owner. Our furry companions bring so much joy (and so much hair) into our daily lives but can make it difficult to maintain a spotless, hairless house. While shedding is both normal and common in dogs, what is too much hair and why do dogs shed more in the summer?
The Root of the Behavior
The natural loss of hair is an important process that the majority of dogs go through and depending on their health and breed, some shed to a greater or a lesser extent than others. It is well-known that shedding is a completely natural and healthy process, although many people also believe that it occurs with the changing of the seasons. Though that was the case back in the day when our canine companions were used primarily as working dogs and spent most of their time outside, things have changed since their domestication. Nowadays, dogs shed all-year round though they drop the majority of their coats during the most drastic temperature changes and in the summer. The transition is clearly noticeable, especially if you frequently wear dark clothing or look underneath the couch when you’re looking for your slippers only to find scary amounts of furballs.
All dogs shed to a certain degree on a regular basis, with the exception of hairless dogs such as the Chinese Crested Dog, Mexican Hairless Dog or the American Hairless Terrier to name a few. Some of them are hypoallergenic and don’t leave a hairy mess behind them for you to clean up after but they still need as much maintenance as their furry counterparts. You need to make sure they are always warm and well-dressed and to watch out for possible skin problems that these breeds often develop.
Other breeds are furry but keep their shedding to a minimum, these include the Havaneses, Portuguese Water Dogs, Bichon Frises, and West Highland Terriers. These dogs have hair shafts that have long lifespans and thus the shedding is minor and infrequent. On the other hand, some breeds such as Saint Bernards, Alaskan Malamutes, and Chow Chows shed a lot because they have thick, abundant undercoats that have shorter lifespans. Their coats keep them warm during the colder seasons but are too hot to maintain during the summer, thus are naturally dropped by our four-legged family members. All of these breeds are also large, so the bigger the dog the bigger the hair fallout and thus the bigger the clean-up.
Though hair shedding is both normal and common, owners need to be on the lookout for excessive shedding that can be caused by nutritional deficiencies, health problems, or other disorders.
Encouraging the Behavior
Just as you would not stop discourage a guest from removing their winter coat if they were hot in it, you should also not discourage or interfere with your dog’s shedding - regardless of the hair fallout that they leave behind. Dogs know how to self-regulate their bodies’ temperatures and have natural, instinctual methods of cooling down during the hot summer days. These include laying in the shade and staying hydrated, cooling off through panting, and dropping their hot, heavy winter coats. Help your dog feel comfortable and promote the shedding by brushing their fur thoroughly once a week as soon as the summer days come. You can do this in the backyard or a designated area which will also help you control the fallout and mitigate the aftermath. It is, after all, easier to vacuum one room than every nook and carpet around the house.
The shedding process is necessary for your dog to stay not only comfortable but also healthy. Routine grooming is essential for all dogs but is especially important for dogs with thicker coats. Brushing their hair removes the dead hair and prevents it from forming mats which can lead to skin problems. It also prevents your dog from overheating which can sometimes lead to heat stroke.
Though some regular shedding is normal, heavy shedding can be a symptom of a health problem or a medical condition. What is defined as heavy shedding will depend on what kind of breed of dog you own. If the shedding is more frequent than usual it could indicate that your dog might have a skin allergy, skin parasites, or is nutrient deficient. If you suspect any of these, it is highly recommended to take your furry family member to the veterinarian for a check-up to rule any medical issues.
Other Solutions and Considerations
People have many ways to cool off, dogs have limited options. In addition to promoting shedding by brushing you should always make sure your dog has a cool, shaded place to relax in and plenty of water during the hot summer days. If you are not a fan of brushing your dog or you are not sure if you are doing it thoroughly enough, you should consider a professional groomer. Most veterinary clinics offer grooming services and can help you make sure your canine is comfortable and ready for the summer, as well as teach you how to properly brush your dog’s coat. Most pet stores also sell brushes specifically designed for dog hair and can make the process a lot smoother and hassle-free. It is best to familiarize your dog with the grooming ritual from an early age to get them used to it and keep their anxiety at bay when you do brush them in the future.
As annoying as the hairy mess can sometimes be, owners need to remember that dogs need to naturally have ways to cool off that might not be the most adjusted to your cleaning arrangements or desires. But just as you wouldn’t keep your child dressed in a winter’s coat during the summer, dogs shouldn’t go through that either. Do what you can to make sure your dog is comfortable and safe during the warmer summer weather and it will be surely appreciated by your four-legged bestie.