Shedding hair is a natural process for most dogs that occurs throughout the year, particularly in spring and summer.
The shedding process is largely influenced by daylight so it is more noticeable in outdoor dogs in the warmer months, while indoor dogs shed more consistently due to exposure to constant levels of artificial light inside the house.
Shedding can also become more pronounced during periods of illness or stress, pregnancy or nursing.
Some dog breeds shed significantly while other breeds, such as Poodles, do not shed as much and thus require regular trimming.
The best way to control shedding is to regularly brush and groom your dog. Long-haired breeds need to be groomed daily, while short-haired breeds may only need one session per week.
Setting up a grooming routine
If your dog is still a puppy, you can start getting it accustomed to grooming early in life. Begin gradually by handling your puppy often, including touching its ears and paws gently. Start with short grooming sessions and reassure your pup constantly.
Combs, slicker brushes, rakes and shedding tools are all useful for keeping your dog's coat under control.
- Fine-toothed combs are best for soft, thin or silky coats, wide-toothed combs are best for heavy and thick coats and medium-toothed combs are suitable for any "normal" coat in between.
- Rakes are ideal for removing dead undercoat hair in larger dogs with coarser and thicker coats, such as the Golden Retriever or German Shepherd. These are best used when the coat is dry, before or after a bath.
- Undercoat rakes or blades have a series of small, sharp, curved blades to quickly remove dead and shedding undercoat while leaving the top coat intact. They are best used before a bath or while the coat is wet, and should be used with care as they can cut the top coat if used incorrectly.
- Slicker brushes are ideal for removing loose hair from the undercoat to prevent matting in double-coated and long-haired breeds, but they are also a good general brush for all breeds if used lightly.
- Pin brushes, which have rounded tips to prevent damage to the skin, are good for dogs with long, fine hair such as Silky Terriers. They can also be used to fluff the coat by brushing against the direction of hair growth.
- Bristle brushes are good for dogs with very long coats, such as the Afghan, and help add shine to short-coated breeds.
- Rubber-bristled brushes or curry combs can be used to remove dust and loose hair from short to medium-coated breeds while massaging the skin, which many dogs find enjoyable. The massaging action promotes the production of natural oils for a healthier, shinier coat.
- Grooming mitts are also good for short-haired breeds to add polish and shine once the loose hairs are removed.
A regular bath (once a week or fortnight) with a good quality shampoo formulated for dogs can also keep shedding under control while keeping your dog's skin clean and healthy.
If your dog has sensitive skin or atopic dermatitis, your vet will be able to recommend a suitable shampoo and/or conditioner to use.
Some vets have a hydrobath on site that you can use to give your dog's coat a professional-level deep clean. A number of mobile dog washes are available that bring the hydrobath to you.
Soothing flaking or scaly skin
Dandruff, or flaking or scaly skin, is called seborrhoea in dogs. It is usually more severe than human dandruff and can be an inherited condition in some breeds. There are 2 types of seborrhoea: a dry form with dry, scaly skin (seborrhoea sicca), or an oily form with greasy crusting (seborrhoea oleosa).
Consider a veterinary examination first to rule out medical conditions that can cause the problem. For simple, mild 'dandruff' in an otherwise healthy dog, there are a few things you can do to help:
- Flea control is essential, both on your dog and in their environment, including other pets in the household. Refer to our other articles on flea control for more information, or talk to your vet for advice.
- Choose a high-quality diet that is nutritionally complete and balanced. Diet can influence skin condition, specifically the inclusion of essential fatty acids. Your vet will be able to recommend a suitable diet for your dog.
- A dietary fatty acid supplement containing omega-3 and omega-6 may be required if your dog's diet doesn't contain a balanced fatty acid supplement. Several products are available from your vet.
- Try a shampoo and conditioner for dogs specifically formulated to soothe itchy, dry skin. Your vet will be able to prescribe an effective product to suit your dog.
Is nail clipping necessary?
Overgrown or broken nails can lead to discomfort and even infection, so it's important to keep them neat and tidy. Some dogs will need more regular trims than others, depending on their breed, size and how much time they spend outdoors.
You can keep your dog's nails regularly trimmed by using nail clippers specially designed for pets. Clip the tip of each nail with a swift action, being careful to stop short of the quick where the blood vessels and nerves are. You can ask your vet to show you the correct technique the first time, especially if your dog has dark nails.
Again, if your dog is a puppy, get them accustomed to having their paws handled early in life. Handle your pup often and offer lots of praise or a treat when he or she stays still and lets you examine their toes and nails. This will make it a pleasurable experience for your dog, as well as making your life a lot easier!
Unusual shedding or skin problems
If you are concerned about your dog's level of shedding or if you notice any unusual skin problems during grooming, you should seek your vet's advice. There are some medical conditions that may increase shedding or cause excessive dandruff, including parasites such as fleas, allergies, or bacterial and fungal infections.