During the winter, dogs grow an extra coat of fur to help insulate themselves, and that gets shed in the summer. Dogs that live indoors either all the time or most of the time will shed year round, get rid of damaged or broken hair. If their skin is dry or irritated they will likely have excessive shedding as well. Here are some tips on dog shedding in winter and how to deal with it.
Shedding in dogs is natural and normal for all breeds, and there are no “real” non-shedding dogs – some simply shed less. However, dog shedding in winter can also be caused by a medical problem. If you take all the steps listed below and still don’t see a change in shedding, it may be time to contact your veterinarian.
What causes excessive dog shedding in winter? Many things: immune system diseases, sunburns, kidney disease, canine influenza, liver disease, thyroid disease, parasites, and bacterial infections are all potential reasons your dog may be shedding more than is normal.
If you notice an increase in dog shedding in winter, pay close attention and look for any signs that it may be due to a more serious condition. Female dogs also tend to shed more during pregnancy, so if your unspayed female begins to shed more frequently, there may be chance of her being pregnant.
All pet owners living with hair removers by their side at all times agree that dog hair around the house can be difficult to deal with. The below five tips will help with excessive dog shedding in winter time that may be caused due to some health issues, whether minor or very serious ones.
5 Tips for Excessive Dog Shedding in Winter
1. Reduce Your Dog's Shedding Through Nutrition
The first step to reduce excessive dog shedding in winter is through a healthy diet. Most of the cheap dog food brands are made with fillers that dog’s can’t digest properly, with most common ones being grains and corn. Reduce the amount of fillers in your dog's diet, and you should be able to reduce shedding in your dog. Furthermore, shedding can also be related to your dog's food allergies.
Always look for dog food that lists meat as the main ingredient with highest percentage of animal source protein. Although better quality dog foods usually cost more upfront, they will typically save you money in the long term as they will require less vet care and grooming care costs. Meat-rich dog foods are digested and absorbed easier by canines, which helps control dry skin and shedding, as well as prevent other potential health problems. Good nutrition will reduce shedding, but it won’t eliminate it entirely.
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2. Keep Your Dog Hydrated
Dehydration will lead to dry skin, which can cause a number of problems, including excessive dog shedding in winter. The reason dogs are very likely to experience this in cold weather is because their body uses more energy (and therefore water), but due to cold weather, dogs do not experience thirst as they do in summer.
UF Small Animal Hospital has a very extensive guide (PDF) on understanding how your dog's skin works, and what role nutrition and hydration plays in reducing excessive dog shedding in winter or summer times (extreme temperatures).
You want to ensure your dog always has access to clean, fresh water. If you are really worried about your dog’s hydration and are unable to keep an eye on your pet at all times for him to drink enough, incorporate wet dog foods into his diet. Wet food contains up to 78% moisture, compared to 10% in dry foods, and it's the easiest way to hydrate him.
3. Brush Your Dog Regularly
Proper and consistent dog grooming is one of the best ways to reduce dog shedding in winter. Brushing your dog’s coat regularly removes excess fur and helps redistribute your dog’s skin oils into his fur. This helps the fur stay in place, and reduces excessive shedding.
Ideally, you should brush your dog’s fur daily, or even twice a day if your dog really has a problem with shedding. It is important to use the correct brush type for your dog’s fur, and there two two categories with their own subcategories of brushes for dog shedding. There are specific deshedding tools for dogs that remove up to 90% of shed hair, too.
Dog brushes: Short-haired, smooth-coated dog breeds should use bristle brushes. Bristle brushes look similar to human hair bristle brushes. Stickler brushes are best for dogs with medium length or curly hair. Stickle brushes have tiny, tightly-packed short wire pins. Dog breeds with long hair or thick undercoats should use rakes. Rakes have pins that are about the same length of your dog’s fur, which works well to thin out dead undercoats.
Deshedding tools: If your dog sheds heavily in the winter, a deshedding tool like FURminator is usually best. This should be used in spring before your dog’s winter coat falls off, and again during the fall before the winter coats come in. Dogs who live indoors all or most of the time will likely shed year round. If your dog’s coat is shorter, rubber curry combs can be used to deshed. Dogs with thick or long coats will need an undercoat dematting rake or a shedding blade. If you are unsure what kind of brush is best for your dog’s fur, ask your veterinarian or a professional pet groomer for advice.
4. Bathe Your Dog (but not too much)
Regular baths will help with dog shedding in winter because they allow loose hair to fall out in the tub, instead of all over your home. Oatmeal dog shampoo is often the most recommended for bathing dogs. However, over bathing your dog can dry their skin out, and make the shedding worse, which is especially true in winter time.
Depending on your dog, you should only bathe once a week, once biweekly, or once a month. Research your dog’s breed to learn more about their recommended bathing schedule, or ask your veterinarian for advice. Long coated dogs can be blow dryed after a bath using a pet-friendly blow dryer, but only on the lowest heat setting, or the cool air setting. If you use a blow dryer, towel dry your dog first. (Here's a guide and video on how to choose a safe dryer for your dog.)
5. Control Fleas
Just because it's winter doesn't mean you can stop all flea treatment and prevention. Even in winter dogs can still get fleas. Fleas can bring about plenty of problems. Your dog will scratch a lot if he gets fleas, which will lead to irritated skin, dandruff, and excessive dog shedding in winter. There are plenty of different kinds of flea treatments available, along with regular preventative treatments. This will keep your dog flea-free, and reduce overall shedding.
Any of the above steps (ideally, a combination of all of them) will help reduce excessive dog shedding in winter. Once you see a decrease in shedding, you may still notice hair around your house. Vacuuming using a pet hair vacuum is the most efficient way to remove dog hair. You should avoid letting dog hair sit on one surface for too long, as it can make it more difficult to remove. On upholstery, lint rollers work great at removing hair. If you find your clothes are covered in hair as well, a lint roller can take care of that.
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