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Even if you have a dog breed that doesn’t shed a ton – like Boxers – you are likely getting ready to see a ton of shedding in the next few months. Spring time is the time of year when dogs get rid of their winter coats, leaving their hair all over your house. It can be a big pain for you, a workout on your vacuum cleaner, and annoying for the dogs as well. But the cycle happens every year, and at my house, it usually means a few months of being covered in an extra layer of fur.
Just like last year, I vowed to be better this year. I have spent year after year looking for tips to deal with the big spring shed, and only a few have ever really done the job. Today I’m sharing with you the seven tips that helped me get through the worst of the shedding last year, and that I’m hoping to use again this year. Maybe you’ll have better luck than me!
Why Do Dogs Shed?
Sometimes I feel like knowing why something is happening can help me feel a little less annoyed by it. Yes, the hair everywhere is still a pain – but having an answer for the moments I fling my hands up and yell “Why?” is satisfying. So let’s talk about why dogs shed.
It’s a normal process for dogs to get rid of hair that is old, dead, or damaged, to make way for new hair growth. In the winter, dogs grow warmer coats to keep them from being cold, and by the time spring rolls around, that winter coat is dead or old, so it’s just coming off naturally.
Humans go through this process too, although to a lesser degree. But the amount of hair that is shed, and the frequency, can be a sign that something beyond the usual loss of old or damaged hair is occurring.
Some reasons that a dog might be shedding include:
Fleas or lice
Taking certain medications
…And even more. Dogs with kidney disease, for example, or dogs that are pregnant, can also shed excessively. Dogs that have come into contact with a substance that irritates the skin can also have balding patches of hair loss. It is important that you consider the reason for your dog’s shedding in order to properly counteract it.
Here are my seven tips to deal with the shedding that could help you cut down on how much time you spend with your vacuum this spring.
1. Don’t bathe your dog too often
Did you know that bathing your dog too much can be just as bad for their shedding, as bathing too infrequently? Some dogs do need more frequent bathing because their skin can get oily and that can make them a bit smelly. Other dogs, especially those prone to dry skin, can shed more after too much bathing because it irritates their skin. One of the best things you can do is to choose a shampoo that has a very gentle, all-natural formula. This Moosh shampoo is a little pricey, but it is one of the most commonly recommended shampoos for dogs that have a tendency to get dry skin, or to have sensitive reactions to shampoo. I’ve been recommending it a lot lately on the blog, for good reason! Janice and Leroy have never looked quite so healthy and shiny as they have since I started using this shampoo.
Most dogs only need a bath about once a month. If you think your dog needs a more frequent bath, or if they rolled around in something smelly and you’re trying to clean them up, be sure to use a gentle shampoo. Even baby shampoo for human babies is better than regular old dog shampoo in these cases. Unless your vet recommends this, I would never wash a dog more than once a week. That will definitely irritate the skin, which will lead to more shedding.
2. Brush your dog daily to catch hair before it falls
A daily brushing can help dogs’ coats stay healthier, which in turns cuts down on the shedding. (Additionally, you’ll see less hair around your house, which is always nice.) The reason that brushing helps to prevent shedding is that it distributes the skin’s natural oils throughout the coat, which makes it stronger. Stronger hair means less damaged hair, and that means less shedding. It’s not hard to figure out what type of brush is best for your dog, but you do need to take just a minute to consider.
Does your dog have a short, silky coat? Choose something with shorter prongs to capture those very fine hairs. (Those tiny hairs may get lost on a brush with larger prongs, which are designed to prevent tangling.) The FURminatordeShedding tool for short dog coats is perfect.
Does your dog have long hair? You may need to use two tools to get the job done. A rake can help you untangle your dog’s hair so that no loose strands hide in the matted areas, and a slicker brush can help you then get rid of the shed hair.
3. Serve up high-quality dog food with natural ingredients
Even if your dog is not allergic to his dog food, eating food that does not contain an optimal amount of nutrients can cause hair loss as well as other medical concerns. The reason that high quality dog food is better is that it ensures that your dog gets the nutrients they need. Dog food that keeps your dog healthy keeps their skin and coat healthy too. Ask your vet for their recommendation for a high quality food, or go with a food that has meat as the first ingredient, such as Blue Wilderness food.
4. Try adding a teaspoon of molasses to your dog’s dinner
Adding a teaspoon of molasses to your dog food bag (the ratio is one teaspoon to every 10 pounds of dog food) has been shown to help dogs avoid a lot of extra shedding. The jury is still out on this one, but molasses is very high in iron, calcium, and magnesium, which are all shown to be very healthy for skin and hair. If your dog’s problem is a nutrient deficiency, this could help clear that up and improve their skin health – which in turn prevents a lot of shedding. I’m not sure I’m totally sold on this idea, but it can’t hurt to try. Be sure to keep your food well-sealed if you do this – the sticky-sweet smell of molasses will attract bugs.
5. Add a teaspoon of olive oil to your dog’s dinner
This tip is one I’m more inclined to believe. There is tons of evidence out there that olive oil is good for dog coats. Adding a tablespoon of olive oil to your dog’s bowl every day can improve their skin because it’s full of omega-3 fatty acids. We talked about the benefits of this natural supplement on the blog before. You can also give your dog a fish oil supplement for the same benefit, or find a dog food that has fish ingredients. This will also help improve your dog’s overall health, so I think it’s really a win all the way around. They’ll also look a lot glossier and shinier, just in time for that holiday photo.
6. Do a regular check for fleas, ticks, mites, or lice
If your dog has been licking a lot, scratching a lot, or even pulling out their own fur with their teeth, you may be seeing a dog that is struggling with pests. Lice, ticks, mites, and fleas can cause allergic reactions that make hair fall out. They also cause painful, itchy spots that cause a dog to scratch, bite, or lick themselves till they have a bald spot. If you are noticing a lot of this behavior, it could mean that it’s time for a dose of flea medicine.
However, once your dog has fleas or lice, getting rid of them can be tricky. You definitely want to treat your home with a spray or even a flea fogger or “bomb” if the infestation is bad. Be sure that you wash your dog’s bed, blanket, and any clothing that the dog wears, and that you talk to your vet about other remedies like flea collars. You may also need to consider a salve for the areas where your dog was scratching, or even a dog cone if they won’t stop licking or biting the area.
7. Be sure they aren’t having an allergic reaction to anything
If a dog is having an allergic reaction to something, they could be having more shedding than usual. Signs of an allergic reaction in a dog include:
Itchy skin that is red, scabbed, or moist
Lots of scratching
Itchy areas at the base of the tail or around the ears
Lots of licking themselves
Chewing at the paws
Dogs can develop allergies at any time to just about anything. From their food, the grass, or fabric dye on their favorite blanket, to your perfume, mold, or a medicine, dogs can become allergic to a great many things. Some dogs that tend to become allergic to things more often than other dogs include:
It can take a bit of work to find out what your dog is actually allergic to so that you can eliminate it. Your vet can help you start to narrow down the possibilities so that you can address the issue. Dogs can also be given Benadryl to help with the symptoms. Ask your vet for the proper dose for your dog. If your dog is allergic to something airborne, like mold or dust mites, consider putting in an air purifier where they sleep. This can help their system get a break from that allergen, and also improves the quality of air for you.
One Last Step
If you’ve gone through the seven tips above for curbing your dog’s shedding, and you haven’t landed on the reason why, it’s time to head to the vet. Many illnesses can cause shedding in dogs, and it may be that they are having a health problem. Getting to the bottom of anything that could be going on could be more than just a chore-saver; it could also save your dog’s life. So if everything on this list has failed, and your dog isn’t one that just naturally sheds a lot, consider heading to your vet if the problem persists. Some things, like autoimmune diseases, cause hair loss in dogs that can be an early symptom of something even worse. Pay attention to those signs to help keep your dog healthy.
I tried all these tips out last year, in addition to giving my Boxers a fish oil supplement that is meant to make their coats stronger. I also checked in with the vet, Stephen, to be sure neither Janice nor Leroy were dealing with any health issues. Unfortunately for me, this is just a “Boxer thing”, and I’ll have to live with it! But I did notice that there was less hair than usual last time around, so some of these tips must have worked! I know that the dogs enjoyed the extra attention from the daily grooming at any rate.
One thing that humans can do to keep their houses from being quite so hairy is to get into a vacuum routine every day during shedding season. I know that’s a huge drag, but the fact is that it’s much easier to vacuum up recently-shed hair than old hair. Dog hair tends to stick to whatever it lands on, and it’s hard to get up if you leave it for more than a day. Try using a Swiffer or something similar around your house every day, and go over the carpet with a quick vacuum. If you do use a Swiffer, one thing I’ve learned is that swapping out the pad for a fabric softener sheet can help pick up hair better because hair sticks to those textured dryer sheets.
Give these tips a try and save yourself the headache of a house covered in fur!