Tundraco's Daily Living Guide to Pets
Why Do Dogs Shed?
Why Do Dogs Shed?
By Rochelle Caviness
All fur-bearing creatures shed, including humans. As older hairs stop growing, they are sloughed of in order to make room for new hair. The type of animal, their general health, and their genetic makeup, in part, determines how often this occurs. Genetics not only affects the shedding cycle, but it also determines how fast, or even if, the hair will regrow.
Anatomy of Your Dog's Fur
A dog's coat actually consists of three different types of fur, all of which are shed on a regular basis.
- The undercoat acts as a form of insulation, and can be extremely thick in breeds traditionally found in colder climates. However, most dogs will adapt to colder climates by growing a thicker undercoat than they would normally grow in a more temperate region. Most dogs shed most, if not all of their undercoat in the spring, preparing them for the summer months.
- The guard hairs, which make up the topcoat, serve two basic functions, they protect the undercoat and the underlying skin, and they help the dog shed water.
- Whiskers are, in a way, like a bug's antenna. They serve as a source of sensory stimulation for the dog.
Why do Dogs Shed?
In general, the shedding cycle in dogs in determined by the amount of light that they are exposed to. As the days lengthen in the spring, this triggers the shedding of their undercoat. All dogs shed, even those mutant looking hairless dogs, such as the Peruvian hairless dogs. This is because while they may appear hairless, they do in fact have very fine coats.
- When a dog scratches, they are helping to facilitate the loosening and removal of any dead hairs.
- Dogs that are kept indoors may shed year round due to the warmth of the home. The dog's undercoat exists to help keep him warm, with a source of external heat he does not need it and so sheds it as it comes in.
- Unseasonably warm weather may also cause a dog to begin to shed.
- Dogs may also begin to shed after going through a period of stress, including giving birth, undergoing surgery, illness, or being placed in a kennel or other strange environment.
It is impossible to prevent a dog from shedding. However, it is possible to reduce the nuisance that it can cause. Your goal is simple. It is to try to remove any loose hairs from your dog - before they fall off and take over your house.
- Brush your dog daily. This will help release loosened hairs, in a controlled manner.
- Bathe your dog regularly. As with brushing, this will help remove loose hairs.
- If you have a very cooperative dog, vacuum him. Be careful not to vacuum his ears as it can damage his hearing.
Shaving your Dog
Many people like to shave their dogs in the summer. They mistakenly believe that this will help keep their dogs cooler, and that it will prevent shedding. While it may minimize the amount of fur that you must sweep up, it can do more harm than good.
- Housedogs who have had their coats cut short or shaved off, can easily become chilled in air-conditioned homes.
- If done too late in the season, the dog may not have enough time to grow back his coat before winter hits.
- Without their coats, dogs can become severely sunburned.
- Shaving a dog makes him susceptible to more bug bites, because the bugs can get closer to the skin.
- If he is in a fight with another animal, he will most likely sustain more severe injuries because he will not have his coat to act as a buffer.
- Cutting off a dog's coat does not make him cooler, and in fact can actually make him hotter. Just as a dog's coat is designed to help keep him warm in the winter by insulating him, in the summer it is designed to help cool him.
What to do with all that shedded fur?
Don't throw it away - Recycle It!
- Stuff a pincushion with the shedded dog hair.
- Mix small amounts of the dog hair in with your potting soil. It will add nutrients as it decomposes.
- Use it as mulch.
- Set it outside in a pail and let the birds help themselves to it for nest building material.