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Animal Skin and Allergy Clinic Blog

When Shedding Seems Excessive

A white dog on a couch that has shed all over

The best part of pet ownership is all the extra hair – said no one ever. While shedding is an expected part of pet ownership, there are some situations in which the hair in your home is more than normal.

At Animal Skin and Allergy Clinic, we know that shedding can be a pain, but we also know how to diagnose and treat excessive shedding.

Normal Hair Growth

It is totally normal for pets to shed hair. No matter if your dog or cat has long hair or short, smooth or wiry, a sleek single coat or a fluffy double, shedding happens. 

Hair grows in a four stage process which includes:

  • Anagen phase (actively growing new hair)
  • Catagen phase (when new hair reaches maximum length)
  • Telogen phase (non-actively growing hair)
  • Exogen phase (shedding hair at the end of its lifecycle)

Similar to humans, some breeds of dogs have a predominantly anagen or actively growing hair all the time. This occurs in breeds like poodles. Most dogs have primarily telogen hair that does not grow most of the year, except for seasonal growth phases in the spring and fall. This is when growth phase is seen with excess shedding as new hair is growing. This shedding cycle is controlled by the hours of daylight, so in the spring when days are getting longer, shedding occurs. When the days are getting shorter in the fall, another growth and shedding cycle occurs. 

Excessive Shedding

For most breeds some degree of shedding is very normal. If your pet is having more shedding than usual, experiencing areas of alopecia (baldness), or seems to be itchy, there could be more at play. 

Common reasons that we may see excessive or abnormal shedding in our pet patients can include:

Infectious – Fungal (yeast or ringworm) or bacterial skin infections can affect the hair and cause shedding. Parasites that live in the hairs can also cause hair to shed.

Nutritional — Pets who eat commercial balanced diets rarely have nutrient deficiencies, but those on homemade diets may have imbalances. Pets may also have food allergies or sensitivities that can contribute to shedding.  

Endocrine or metabolic disease — Hormones and overall health can greatly affect the hair coat. Pregnancy, stress, organ disease, thyroid imbalances, and Cushing’s syndrome can all lead to shedding. 

Neoplastic — Certain types of cancer can affect the coat. 

Allergic disease — Food allergies, environmental allergies, or atopic dermatitis can all lead to can all lead to shedding primarily because of infections caused by the allergic condition.

Allergic reactions to parasites, fleas, and mites will cause the animal to scratch, rub, bite, or pull out the hair in the areas of these parasites. Your pet’s coat can be a window to their internal health and well-being. Any clue that things are awry could be important, even if it just seems like a little extra hair on your couch.

If you feel your pet’s shedding is abnormal or excessive, it is best to give us a call so that we can check things out.