Dogs typically shed their coats at the changing of the cooler and warmer seasons. When spring arrives, they begin shedding their thick, warm winter coats in order to stay cool during the summer. Then when fall begins, they shed their thin warm weather coats to grow out their cozy winter ones again! But do dogs shed in the winter?
Some breeds shed in the winter months, but not usually as heavily as during spring and fall. Even so, what does winter shedding in dogs mean, and can it ever be a cause for concern?
Do Dogs Shed in the Winter?
Just like humans, dogs are always shedding a little bit of hair, whether it’s spring, summer, fall, or winter. And while for most dogs, the major shedding occurs during the transition in and out of the warmer seasons, some experience moderate shedding during winter too.
Why Do Dogs Shed in the Winter?
The main reason why some dogs shed during the wintertime is simply that all breeds are different. And while most shed seasonally, others shed all year round. Some barely shed at all!
However, if your dog is shedding in winter when it’s unusual for him to do so, or shedding excessively, there could be another reason why. Let’s take a look.
Change in Climate
If you take your dog on vacation or move to a place with a drastically different climate to what they are used to, it may mean a change in shedding as their bodies adapt to the difference in temperature.
This can also happen if you change where your dog sleeps; for example, if you bring your dog indoors when they are used to sleeping outside or vice versa.
Stress and Anxiety
Just like humans, dogs can shed more of their hair than usual if they’re feeling stressed or anxious about something. Signs of anxiety in dogs include pacing, panting, whining, eating less, going to the toilet in the house, and being destructive towards themselves or household furniture.
If you’re aware of something causing stress in your dog’s life, you should try to eliminate it if possible or if it’s an irrational fear, associate it with something positive. That said, not everything is within our control. Common causes of stress and anxiety in dogs include a change in schedule, somebody in the house being unwell, or somebody they love passing away.
In the event of one of these situations, try to relax your dog by giving them lots of cuddles and massages, playing fun games, and using an anti-anxiety coat, plug-in diffuser, herbal drops, or tablets if necessary. Making sure your dog is getting enough exercise, a proper bed-time routine, playing relaxing music, and not giving them any sugary treats will also help. If nothing seems to be working or you are worried, you should speak to your vet for advice.
Medical Reasons for Shedding
Unusual or excessive shedding can also be caused by medical conditions, including skin allergies, parasites, fungal or bacterial infections, and external contact with a toxic plant or substance. It could also be an indication of a hormonal issue, an immune system disorder, dehydration, liver disease, or kidney disease.
All of these issues come with their own signs and symptoms, so keep an eye out for the following things.
External Issues & Skin Conditions
Other signs of a skin allergy include inflamed, itchy skin, hives, and swelling of the facial features. Vets can prescribe antihistamines to stop reactions.
Some external parasites, like ‘mange’ mites, can cause your dog to lose their fur in patches. Others, such as fleas can cause fur loss from your dog biting and scratching at the itchy skin. So if you see this, get them up to date with their antiparasitic treatment. Some internal parasites can also cause hair loss, if your dog has internal parasites they will have an extremely upset stomach and need veterinary prescribed medication to treat the issue. Other signs of skin infections in dogs include inflamed, sore, itchy skin, and pus-filled lesions. If your dog has a skin infection, they need to see a vet for either bacterial antibiotics or fungal medication.
Should your dog’s skin or fur have contact with a poisonous substance it can result in fur loss and skin irritation, or even burns. If you see this happen and your dog’s reaction is mild, you should try to gently wash off whatever is on their coat with clean water. Don’t let your dog lick it off as ingesting the poisonous substance could cause a worse reaction. If they do ingest the substance or their skin is burnt, you should call your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline for advice.
Hormonal imbalances are a common cause of fur loss. If it occurs with otherwise unexplained changes in appetite, weight, and activity level, they may have a hormonal imbalance. If you think your dog has a hormonal imbalance, you should take them to see a vet for blood tests and advice on the appropriate lifestyle changes. There are many types of immune system disorders, and symptoms vary for each one. But generally, they are not too dissimilar to hormonal issues and require veterinary testing to get to the bottom of it. Treatments can include special food, supplements, and acupuncture.
Dehydration in dogs causes excessive panting, a dry nose, sunken eyes, thick saliva, lethargy, and loss of skin elasticity. Dehydrated dogs need regular sips of cool, clean water, and electrolytes. If dehydration is severe, a vet may need to give them IV fluid treatment. Other signs of liver disease include jaundice, seizures, and confusion. Liver disease must be caught and treated early or it can result in a serious brain condition. Treatment usually includes dietary changes, supplements, medication, and sometimes surgery.
Symptoms of kidney disease include excessive thirst and urination, often accidental urination in the home, pale gums, mouth ulcers, and loss of vision. Kidney disease must be treated or the kidneys will begin to fail, treatment includes dietary changes, medication, fluid therapy, and in severe cases, dialysis.
How Can I Reduce My Dog's Shedding in the Winter?
Thankfully, there are many ways to reduce shedding and stop it from taking over your home!
Brush Your Dog Regularly
The best way to prevent your house from getting covered in fur is by regularly brushing your dog. The major shedding happens within the first few weeks of the seasons changing. So, in order to minimize shedding, brush your dog every day during these weeks. It will rid your dog of the loose fur before it has the chance to fall out all over your carpet, sofa, and everything else!
Short-haired, smooth-coated dogs will benefit from bristled brushes, while stickler brushes are best for medium length or curly hair. Dogs with long hair or thick undercoats will need rake brushes.
If your dog sheds heavily, you may want to use a de-shedding tool that really gets all the dead stuff out rather than a regular brush. Dog shedding brushes reduce up to 90% of shedding. Baths can also help to loosen up the dead fur but don’t bathe your dog any more regularly than normal, as it will irritate their skin.
A healthy diet will keep your dog’s fur growing and shedding at a natural rate. Most cheap canned dog food brands are the human equivalent of processed food that can’t be properly digested.
All dogs should eat a diet consisting of nutrient-rich kibble, lean meat such as chicken and fish, and dog-safe fruits and vegetables. Be careful to avoid dangerous fruits and vegetables as they can be a large health risk to your dog. A proper diet filled with the right fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals will ensure your dog’s overall health is tip-top, and that includes their skin & fur.
Keep Your Dog Hydrated
As discussed earlier, dehydration can cause your dog’s fur to loosen and fall out. Not only does this mean fur everywhere, but it’s just bad for your dog. Keep them hydrated by making sure they always have access to a fresh, clean supply of cold water. Change your dog’s water every few hours and always make sure they have a drink after exercising!
Dog Shedding in Wintertime – FAQ
Here are the most common questions about dog wintertime shedding with concise answers.
Your dog should experience the most shedding during the last couple of weeks of March and the first couple of weeks of April.
They shed the most during the transition from winter to spring because they are trading in their thick warm coats for summer ones.
Your dog should shed more in the winter than they do in the summer. Dogs shed the least amount in the summer because they have the thinnest coats and the least fur to shed. However, they shed most in autumn to get their winter coat ready! Summer coats are nice and lightweight to keep cool in the heat!
On average it takes between 2 and 4 weeks for a dog to shed their winter coat, depending on the thickness of their fur.
You can’t stop your dog from shedding but you can control when & where the majority of the hair falls out. The best way to stop your dog from shedding his fur all over your house is to brush him every day for between 2- 4 weeks around the changing of the seasons, depending on how thick his coat is.
If your dog is a breed that sheds all year round, they will likely shed moderately throughout the winter. That said, dogs shouldn’t shed excessively in the winter months.
Dogs shouldn’t be shedding more in the winter than in the other seasons, and if they are there could be an underlying problem that needs to be addressed by your vet.
If your dog is shedding more than normal in the winter or any other time of the year, watch out for signs and symptoms of other medical problems such as an allergy or hormonal imbalance.
Every breed of dog sheds at least a little bit of fur, there aren’t any that shed none ever. That said, there are plenty of dog breeds that shed very little or are hypoallergenic, including Poodles and most Poodle cross-breeds. Alternatively, you could go for an exotic hairless breed such as the American Hairless Terrier!
Do dogs shed in the winter? The answer is – sometimes! And more often than not, it is nothing to worry about. All breeds of dog are different and there is really no universal shedding season. But of course, always keep an eye out for signs of a bigger problem if your dog is shedding excessively. Does your dog shed in the winter? Do you have any tips or tricks to keep it under control that we haven’t mentioned? Please let us know in the comments down below!