Ever wonder, “why is my.dog losing hair?” When dog shedding and cat shedding creates hairy tumbleweeds, it creates a fur-ocious mess you need to manage. At one time, our German Shepherd Magic’s fur shedding turned our cream carpet to gray. Today we live with two short-haired pets. But Karma-Kat’s silver fur and the Shadow-Pup’s undercoat become furry dust mice on the kitchen’s slate floor, float through the air, and cling to upholstery and clothing. Knowing what to do goes beyond keeping the house clean. Proper fur care can prevent skin problems and also help manage hairballs.
Exposure to sunlight or artificial light determines the timing and amount of shedding. “It is a normal process which can be accelerated under certain circumstances,” says Steven Melman, VMD, an internationally known expert on veterinary dermatology and the founder of DermaZoo.com. In fact, indoor pets exposed to artificial light shed nonstop, even during triple-digit summer or frigid winter months.
Whatever time of year shedding occurs, it’s aggravating, and a nonstop cleaning challenge. Why do pets shed fur, and how can we manage the mess?
Shadow’s short fur includes a dense undercoat that leaves poofs of fuzz behind.
Why is My Dog Losing Hair? Understanding Pet Fur Shedding
Hair follicles produce hairs that emerge through pores in the pets’ skin. People have simple hair follicles which produce single hairs. But cats and dogs have compound hair follicles able to produce many hairs, sometimes twenty per follicle.
The length and diameter of hair shafts vary in individual dogs and cats, as well as by breed. Sinus hairs (whiskers) are the largest, thickest kind of hair. Harsh guard hairs (primary hairs) make up the weather-resistant outer coat. Secondary hairs are shorter and made up of awn hairs of various lengths that compose the intermediate coat. The shortest (often wooly, curled, or crimped) make up the insulating undercoat. All types may grow from the same hair follicle, but not all pets have every type of hair. When the follicles slightly twist, it produces curly fur.
How Often Do Pets Shed?
In normal dogs and cats, each hair follicle cycles through three stages of growth. This consists of active growth (anagen stage) followed by involution or shrinkage (catagen stage) and ends with inactivity or resting (telogen stage). During telogen, the root of the old hair shrinks, becomes loose, sheds, and replaced by new hair during the next anagen stage.
Outside dogs and cats in the northeastern United States shed seasonally. The most fur flies for several weeks in late spring when daylight increases. On average, the three stages take 130 days, compared to the six-year human hair growth cycle.
Winter months coincide with the telogen resting stage when fur most easily pulls out. Petting your dog or cat may produce a palm full of fur. Frightened or stressed pets reflexively tighten their skin, which also prompts shedding of this loosened fur. And because pets reflect their human’s stress, dogs and cats may shed more when you feel upset.
What About Dogs That Don’t Shed?
The desire to reduce the aggravation of shedding popularized many “doodle” breed hybrids that include the non-shedding Poodle. Dr. Melman acknowledges breeds like Yorkies and curly coated dogs like
Poodles shed less than others, because their hair growth cycle lasts years instead of months. Also, shed hairs catch in curly coats, rather than leaving clumps around the house.
You can’t stop shedding, but you can reduce housekeeping aggravation. Here’s how.
4 Housekeeping Tips to Manage Fur Mess
Check with Your Vet. Hair is made up of keratin, a type of protein, which means poor nutrition can result in dry, lifeless fur or increased hair loss. Abnormal hair loss may also be caused by a variety of endocrine disorders, says Dr. Melman. Consult with your veterinarian for recommendations about unusual hair loss.
Groom Every Day. Routine hair care prevents problems like mats and keeps skin and coats healthy. Groom in an easy to clean area–outside on pleasant days–to avoid a furry tornado inside the house. A standard comb, a curry, or a pin brush works well for many pets. For shorthaired animals or cats that hate grooming but love petting, use rubber-nubbed grooming gloves to pull free loose fur as you stroke the body.
Bathe for Deep Cleaning. Bathing your pet can clear off the lion’s share of loose fur to keep floors, furniture, and clothes less hairy. The Bissel® BarkBath™ doubles as a portable dog bath (without the messy dunking, or watery fur-shaking mess), and also a carpet and upholstery cleaner. You’ll need to prep pets to accept this–training tips come with the appliance. You can also have pets bathed by a professional Fear Free certified groomer.
Clean Up Floor Fuzz. At our house, we need something to clean carpet, and clear away mess from the kitchen’s slate floor and our new hardwood floors. The Bissel® CrossWave ® offers a wet-dry option on multiple floor surfaces, as well as the ability to spot-clean area rugs. And the Pet Hair Eraser® can keep even light-colored carpets fur free.
Understanding how and why pets shed should reduce aggravation. And hopefully these tips will help manage pet shedding. So please share in the comments–longhair cat? shorthair dog? What are YOUR tips for keeping clothes, furniture, and floors fuzz free?
This post appeared in another form previously on the FearFreeHappyHomes.com site.
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!