All mammals shed, even you, but your dog is covered in hair and fur, so when they shed it is pretty noticeable!
Natural shedding takes place as your dog loses old and damaged hair, and seasonally when the weather warms up and they no longer need their protective winter coats to keep themselves warm. If your dog is suffering from a skin condition, parasites, allergies or experiencing old age, shedding can become quite a bit worse than normal. For pet owners, shedding can result in constant vacuuming and sweeping to remove pet hair from furniture and floors, repeat cleanings of your dog's bedding, and liberal use of a lint roller on your clothes every time you venture out in public. While there is no way to completely stop your dog shedding (even so-called non-shedding or hypoallergenic breeds shed a little bit), there are ways to reduce the amount your dog sheds, so you do not need to purchase shares in a lint roller company!
Causes and Prevention of Excessive Shedding
Nutrition and General Health
Loss of hair can be exacerbated by malnutrition or a lack of a required nutrient, vitamin or mineral in your dog diet. Providing a good, high protein diet to your dog, complete with all the vitamins and minerals he needs and in appropriate, not excessive, amounts, helps reduce excess shedding. Poor health can also make shedding worse; avoid allowing your dog to become overweight or inactive. Feed appropriate amounts of high-quality food and ensure your dog gets lots of exercise to stay fit and healthy. Regular checkups from your veterinarian to identify and address any health concerns will keep your dog healthy and ensure that a medical condition does not contribute to hair loss.
Skin and Coat Health
Dry skin can cause an excess of damaged hair and cause more heavy shedding. Moisturizing and nourishing your dog's skin and fur coat can be done with moisturizing shampoos that are available commercially or oatmeal shampoos that improve hair coat and reduce itchy skin. Also, you can moisturize from the inside out by ensuring your dog has lots of water, as dehydration can contribute to hair loss. Supplementing your dog's feed with olive oil, fatty acids, or flax seed will also help produce a healthy hair coat and prevent dry skin.
Frequent grooming to remove old, loose hair will prevent it from ending up on your furniture and clothes. Grooming also distributes body oils, which helps keep your dog's skin moisturized, and can reduce the amount of hair your dog loses. Make sure you use the right grooming tool for your dog's hair coat, as our dogs come in many different shapes, sizes, and hair types. Talk to a professional groomer for advice on which tool will work best to remove hair and distribute body oils. You can also clip your dog, especially in the summer, to help remove winter coat, and decrease the amount of hair available for your dog to deposit all over your house!
Parasites, whether internal like worms or external like flea and ticks, can contribute to hair loss, either from poor health or itching, scratching, and chewing of the hair coat. Regularly deworming your dog and using a preventative antiparasitic to prevent flea and tick infestations will decrease hair loss in your dog and prevent a host of other problems associated with parasitic infections.
Skin conditions, including dandruff, and yeast infections, can be common in dogs and cause damage to skin, and compromise hair follicles resulting in excess shedding. Treating dandruff and yeast with appropriate topical or oral medications to resolve the conditions will make your dog more comfortable and his hair loss more manageable.
Some breeds shed only minimally--they are often referred to as non-shedding breeds. This is a bit of a misnomer as all dogs shed a little, however, these low-shed dogs have negligible hair loss. These breeds include Airedale terriers, Affenpinschers, Basenjis, Bedlington terriers, Bichon Frises, Bologneses, border terriers, Bouvier des Flandres, Brussels Griffons, Cairn terriers, Chinese cresteds, Havanese, Highland terriers, Irish terriers, Irish water spaniels, Kerry Blue terriers, Komondors, Lakeland terriers, Labradoodles, Lhasa Apsos, Maltese, Salukis, Schnauzers, Silky terriers, Shih Tzu, poodles, Portuguese water dogs, Tibetan terriers, Yorkshire terriers, and Wheaten terriers. Many other breed are classified as low shed dogs. If the amount your dog sheds is a concern, talk to breeders before selecting a puppy to ensure one that is a good fit for your home.
Benefits of Reducing Shedding
Although you cannot prevent all shedding, minimizing the amount your dog sheds can make quite a difference to how much cleaning you need to do in your home and to your clothes. Removing hair by grooming your dog or preventing excess hair loss with good health and diet will save time spent removing hair in your home and wear and tear on your furniture, carpet and clothes.
Maintenance for Prevention
All dogs shed, but some less than others, and there are steps pet owners can take to ensure their dogs do not shed more than necessary. Shedding is a natural process, but in many cases poor health, poor diet, parasites, or health conditions can contribute to excess hair loss. Addressing these conditions and ensuring your dog's overall health and nutrition including providing supplements to promote hair coat health will prevent unnecessary shedding. Grooming your dog regularly to remove excess hair, before it ends up all over you and your home, is also recommended to prevent mess from hair loss. When selecting a dog, if mess from shedding is going to be an issue for you, be sure to select a dog that is known for its minimal shedding characteristics, some dogs shed much more than others, and this should be considered when selecting dog.