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When Dogs and Cats Shed Hair

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Dogs and cats shed hair year round, although they typically shed more as the hair coat thickens or thins during the fall and spring.  The level of shedding is more of a response to the length of daylight than to the temperature.  Shedding can also be affected by nutrition, hormones, and stress.  Poodles shed very little and certain terriers shed less than other breeds, so these dogs need periodic coat trimming and more grooming than short-haired breeds such as pugs or beagles.

Shedding is much more noticeable in dogs and cats with long, thick hair than in those with short hair.  Unless pets with long, thick coats are groomed regularly, their hair can form mats.  Mats frequently develop around the ears and on the long hair on the legs, but they can form anywhere on the body.  Matted hair can lead to skin conditions such as hot spots.  Mats are best removed with electric trimmers; using scissors can accidentally cut the skin.

Normal shedding is gradual and produces no noticeable bare spots, which can be a sign of a skin condition or a generalized illness such as a hormonal disorder.  Any bare, itchy, or raw areas should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian.

The best way to deal with normal shedding is to keep your pet well groomed.  Regular (eg, daily) brushing removes dead hair, decreases mat formation, and cuts down on hair within the home.  Many pets also enjoy being groomed, so that daily grooming becomes a time of bonding between you and your pet.  For dogs, occasional bathing can also be helpful, but remember to use only mild pet shampoo and to rinse thoroughly.

Q&A

Is shedding normal?

Year-round shedding is normal for most dogs and cats, although some breeds (eg, poodles) shed less than others.  Shedding increases during fall and spring as the hair coat thickens or thins.

What is the best way to deal with shedding?

Regular grooming, including daily brushing and (in dogs) occasional bathing is the best way to decrease hair in the home and cut down on mat formation.

Does normal shedding produce bare patches?

No.  Any bare, scaly, red, or itchy areas should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian.

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhD and Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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