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“Ash,” said one of my friends the other day, “Is it normal for my collie to be losing hair now…at the beginning of fall?”
I looked at him blankly. For all of the blogs I’ve written about shedding, great tools for helping dogs with shedding, and all the rest. I couldn’t honestly recall whether it is normal for heavy shedding to happen in the autumn months. I mean, Janice and Leroy shed, and that should read in all caps since their shedding is pretty extreme, but this usually strikes in the spring and early summer.
I had to admit my ignorance and tell my pal that I would get back to him with a better response in a day or two. I made a note to do some research and almost as soon as I’d entered my questions into Google I found the answer (I’m not sure why my friend didn’t do this himself, but, now we all get to find out the answer!).
Last update on 2018-11-17 at 20:44 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
And what did I learn? That it is quite common for the larger dogs with “double coats” to shed in the fall. Also called “blowing”, it is a sort of “part-two” in the animal’s natural fur cycle. That means Akitas, Chows, Collies, Huskies, Shelties and even some year-round shedders like Beagles, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Labs, Retrievers and Shepherds could send hair flying along with the leaves in your yard.
I loved what one expert said about this issue, noting that “the fall and spring months are the peak shedding times for the double-coated ‘deciduous dogs,’ the exact months you should expect to find hair around tends to vary depending on the weather, amount of daylight, breed of dog, nutrition, age, sex, living environment and overall health condition.” Deciduous dogs, not unlike the deciduous trees, that shed as the seasons shift!
Clearly, you need to always do some double-checking that heavy autumn shedding is not related to an underlying health issue. Some articles noted that skin allergies in the “dog days” are not at all uncommon and can cue a heavy bout of shedding. Additionally, parasites can cause shedding at the odd time of year, as can something wrong in the diet.
You also need to remember that indoor dogs are not the most likely to experience shedding since you keep the temperatures in your home pretty balanced. Yet, it can be tricky based on your dog’s natural coat. Artificial lighting, conditioned air (hot and cold), and the dog’s natural shedding cycle can lead to disruptions that make your pup a year-round, moderate shedder.
For outdoor dogs, though, temperatures and humidity can be all over the place. This is why some primarily outdoor pups have oddly paced shedding experiences, but will (for the most part) lose the heavy winter coat as temperature rise and acquire insulation as the cool of autumn sets in.
Yet, you cannot ignore the lifecycle of a dog’s fur. For instance, winter coats shed in spring, and double coated dogs lose fur in the autumn because they are, technically, shedding the summer coat.So, many dogs experience the autumn “blow” which is really the loss of the softer, lighter summer coat in exchange for the denser, thicker fur necessary for winter.
There are just so many factors that can contribute to a dog experiencing very heavy autumn shedding. It relates to more than just breed, living conditions, health, weather and so on.
I got back to my friend to tell him what I’d learned through my research. His collie, Daniel Boone, was shedding at an appropriate time. Though we had lived through some beastly temperatures (and humidity) in late July and all through August, making shedding seem like a smart move, DB was actually transitioning into a winter coat.
“The changing light and shift from summer to autumn are actually telling his fur to get ready for winter,” I summarized.
“So,” he sighed, “There’s nothing I can do about all this fur?”
Actually, on that point he was wrong. There are a lot of things to be done about shedding, whether it is the year-round type or the seasonal bouts.
First things first, I like to remind anyone who complains about some facet of their dog’s natural patterns (shedding, vocalizations, high energy, and so on) that they had to have known about such traits before adopting a dog. In other words, if I adopted Janice and Leroy even though I know about the boundless energy of Boxers, and then complained that they just never sit still…well, it would be my own silly fault!
What I’m trying to get at here is simple: If you are very upset by the sight of animal fur on your clothing, furnishings, floors, car seats, and anywhere else it might be found, try to avoid adopting dogs that are known as heavy shedders. Or as one dog expert said, “If you’re going to share your home with a dog, you’ll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house… shedding does vary greatly among the breeds… some shed hardly at all. If you’re a neatnik you’ll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.”
Also, realize that there are all kinds of specialized furniture throws and easy to use covers for car seats. These keep the fur to a minimum in places like your living room or vehicle. You can also make a habit of keeping a reusable pet hair and lint remover brush with you at all times, as this tidies up your clothing and grabs all those stray hairs.
Try to remember that the shedding is not usually going to be so unmanageable on a year-round basis. Though a dog might shed all the time, the seasonal “blow” comes and goes.
Another thing that can really help manage issues related to late summer shedding is upping your grooming game. Whether you take your pups to professional groomers or tackle it as a DIY gig, by doing daily brushing and a more intense weekly grooming session during the peak of shedding, you’ll find things less hairy.
I trained Janice and Leroy not to fear the vacuum, and use a simple trick to ensure they stay unafraid. I just attach an extended hose and keep the actual machine around the corner and in the next room. It’s still pretty noisy, but not as blasting as it would be right next to us. I use a specialty pet grooming attachment for the vacuum, as well, as this grabs a lot more hair than my brushing and a standard vacuum brush manages.
Now, if you have a double coated dog, it is a wise idea to take things outdoors. The amount of dander, fluff and loose hair can be overwhelming, and rather than risk having to clean up both the dog and the house, just let the fur fly outdoors. Use a good brush for shedding, there are great options for dogs with medium to long hair, short hair and brushes in different widths. As I always tell people who ask, regular dog brushes don’t do the trick when it is shedding season. You need to have something that deals with the undercoat. Look for this style, and your outdoor or indoor grooming sessions will be much more successful.
Should you just shave the dog? No. I never suggest this because it can trigger hair loss and blocks the dog’s body from self-regulating its temperature. Plus, dogs that have been shaved end up prone to sunburn, insect bites and even heat stroke. Leave a natural coat in place and allow the dog’s body to control the entire process.
Some dogs love water and baths, and others…well, not so much. However, once you brush a dog with an undercoat comb, it can be incredibly helpful to give them a bath. I find a once-a-month bath (immediately after brushing) helps to remove a lot of the extra fur and trigger any looser hairs to come off with the scrubbing. I use a handy Zoom Groom device that allows me to lather Janice’s and Leroy’s coats while also pulling away the extra fur the brushing and vacuuming missed.
I do this only once a month because I don’t want to run the risks of irritating their skin with shampoo or offsetting their natural bodily oil balance. I suggest the same for all dog owners.
Whether or not you already serve a premium food, if a dog is heading into an intense period of shedding, you should protect their skin and coat to the best degree possible. Grooming and bathing are ideal steps, but also ensure they are eating the best diet for their needs. My regular readers know that I am a bit focused on all-natural diets for Janice and Leroy, and because of that they have great skin and coats all year long.
If you are unclear about an optimal diet for your dog(s), ask your vet. Some dogs have food allergies or sensitive stomachs, and improving their digestion and diet often reflects in the look of their coat. Plus, it just makes them feel better!
Note: One of the dietary tips that I often suggest is supplementing with a bit of molasses (a single teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight) as it is high in key nutrients needed for optimal coat and skin. You can also try a tablespoon of high quality olive oil in your dog’s food bowl to provide key fatty acids, and fish oil supplements can also have a similar effect.
Here’s the thing about seasonal shedding and that “blow” experience: It can allow even an attractive dog to begin to appear a bit ragged. With uneven hair loss, your dog’s coat can look unbalanced, clumpy and unappealing. This is a time to pay extra attention since matting can occur and your pup can be incredibly uncomfortable as their coat adjusts. However, and as I said before, fur loss can be a sign of ill health or parasites. Don’t ever just assume that the clumps of fur or the hairs that suddenly appear on all of the furniture are signs of shedding.
After all, as a cat-owning friend of mine said only a few weeks ago, “This summer is the first time ever that Coco had fleas!” She went on to explain that her “catio” had been designed to allow the pampered feline time outdoors, but safe from harm. However, with the summer’s intense heat, fleas invaded one sandy corner of the catio space. The little cat’s fur began to fall out in larger amounts than normal, and my friend realized that they had a problem – indoors and out. She’s gotten it under control now, but it was a process.
She initially assumed the cat’s hair loss was shedding, but it was fleas. Dogs suffer similar symptoms and may shed excessively due to lice, fleas, bacterial issues, seasonal allergies, contact with irritants, immune disorders, sunburn and more. Dogs suffering kidney disease might also manifest hair loss.
Last update on 2018-11-17 at 20:44 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Allergies are something lots of dog owners overlook because dogs commonly lick and clean themselves. However, large amounts of hair loss can also be due to seasonal and year-round allergies, and if a dog seems to be very itchy and scratch, has smelly or swollen feet, watery eyes, digestive issues and even something a simple as loud snoring, their fur loss could be a side effect of allergies.
It can be distressing to see your dog’s coat suddenly appear to fall out, but most instances of intense fur loss relate to shedding. It serves a biological and seasonal purpose and keeps the dog comfortable all year. Be aware of your dog’s anticipated cycles of shedding and you keep ahead of it by regular grooming and bathing. It allows you to bond with the dog and keeps your furniture free of fur, too!
So, the long and short of it is that autumn shedding is common in many dogs, and though it seems odd to lose fur as the cooler weather arrives, it is actually making way for that warmer, thicker winter coat!