What could cause dog to shed hair?

Wednesday, May 22, 2002


By Dr. John Koch

Question: I have a small mixed breed dog with short hair that seems to be constantly shedding. His skin is not red, nor does it have any scabs or crusts. He scratches occasionally, but not enough that I consider it a problem. Other than leaving hair everywhere I think he looks pretty healthy. Is there anything that can be done to eliminate some of this shedding?

Answer: Your question is very commonly heard in veterinarian's offices. There are dozens of diseases that can result in excess shedding. Parasites, infection, fungi, stress, and hormone imbalances are general categories of such diseases. However, a degree of shedding is normal in dogs and cats. Some pets shed a lot more than other do. There are those that shed primarily in the spring and fall, while others seem to shed constantly year-round.

Skin problems are among the most difficult for veterinarians to diagnose. Usually, your pet's doctor will be able to tell if your pet's shedding is normal or abnormal. If your pet's shedding is felt to be normal there are still some things that can be done to minimize it.

First, make sure that you are feeding a good brand of dog food. Too many people select food on the basis of how much it costs rather than its quality. Second, brush or groom your pet daily to get rid of dead hair before it winds up on your sofa. Third, giving daily fatty acid supplementation is often helpful. Finally, indoor dogs sometimes shed less if they spend more time outdoors and vice versa.

Excessive shedding is understandably annoying to owners. Hopefully, some solace may be taken in knowing that despite the shedding your pet is healthy and not suffering any discomfort. Also hopefully, with good care some control can be obtained. Good luck!

Dr. Koch is a Cape Girardeau veterinarian.

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