Is Your Dog’s Shedding Related to Stress?
Your Dog’s Shedding — Normal or Excess?
This time of year, when the sun begins to shine a little longer each day and the heat index starts to rise, you may notice something… Your dog is leaving little hair tumbleweeds across the tiles. Shedding can be a major problem for some breeds, and many pet owners have the lint rollers in hand and vacuums going strong.
Shedding is a normal process of keeping your dog’s skin and coat healthy. There are times, though, when hair loss can signal a larger issue. The team at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services wants to tackle the question of shedding and explore the causes and conditions of excess shedding.
Normal Shedding Is Healthy
If your dog is shedding when the temperatures start to rise, mid- to late spring and continuing through the summer months, this is probably normal shedding. The old or damaged hairs fall out to make way for new hair growth. Shedding also facilitates the disbursement of natural oils that keep the coat healthy.
But how much shedding is normal? That varies by dog based on several factors:
- Time of year. Sunlight can trigger hair growth, so in northern climates, longer days will prompt new growth, pushing out the old hair.
- Breed. Long-haired dogs and those adapted to a colder climate with thick undercoats are subject to more shedding than other breeds.
- Health. Healthier dogs with well-groomed, shiny coats are less likely than unhealthy dogs to experience excess shedding. Older pets who have nutritional deficiencies or hypothyroidism, or those with poor skin condition due to parasites, may shed more.
- Allergies. If your pet is allergic, then you’ve probably noticed an increase in scratching, rubbing their face and body on carpets, and biting at skin. This behavior causes the follicles to loosen and triggers and increase in shedding.
Other factors such as changes in your dog’s hormones after pregnancy, or your dog’s nutrition can influence the amount of hair that your dog sheds. The coarseness and texture of the fur can also affect how much is shed.
Dog Anxiety and Hair Loss
Anxiety can trigger a number of health problems in humans, including hair loss. This is also true for canines. When your dog is nervous on a car ride or is fearful at the veterinarian’s office, you may have noticed that they shed a lot. But why is this?
When your dog is stressed, a release of epinephrine — also known as adrenaline — releases the hair. It’s unclear why this occurs, but you can be sure that when your Fido or Princess gets a scare, the fur will indeed fly.
Unfortunately, some dogs have chronic stress due to behavioral issues or situations that cause them to be fearful. This is especially noticeable in a shelter environment, for example. A change at home, such as an additional pet or a move, can also trigger stress.
How to Minimize Stress
If the stress is temporary — like those terrifying trips in the car, or the vacuum’s roar — then it’s probably nothing to worry about. If your dog has chronic stress because of a behavioral challenge (such as fear of socialization), it’s another matter. You will want to get the advice of your veterinarian or Veterinary Behaviorist. Chronic stress can have adverse effects on your dog’s health in ways that go beyond just shedding. Professional consultation is necessary.
You can help relieve general stress with the use of:
- Enrichment — Keep your dog busy and mentally stimulated by adding toys, puzzles, and other fun activities into the mix.
- Exercise — Lack of exercise can cause stress, especially in high energy breeds. Make sure your dog is getting daily walks or other forms of exercise.
- Noise reduction — If noise bothers your pup, try to keep the home as quiet and calm as possible. Use white noise or soft music if outdoor noise or construction is the problem.
- Minimize change — Change is inevitable, but changing things in the home and schedule can be stressful for your pet. Try to stick to normal routines and keep your dog’s bed, litterbox (for kitties), and other items in the same place as much as possible.
Is Your Dog’s Shedding Becoming Noticeable?
If you notice that your dog is shedding over and above what is normal, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian. Even if there is a simple explanation, it’s important to rule out any negative health concerns for the wellbeing of your fur friend.