By Dr. Sophie Liu, SF SPCA Resident in Behavior Medicine
Aside from being the largest organ, skin also plays a critical role in health and, equally, is reflective of your dog’s health. Because of selective breeding, many dog breeds have developed different types of fur with varying maintenance and grooming requirements. All dog coats, however, require a balance of high quality nutrition and some level of grooming care to ensure a healthy skin barrier and a normal coat.
But what about shedding? Hair follicles continuously cycle from a growth to resting phase, and hair falls out in a cyclical manner. Interestingly, hair turnover rates in dogs vary significantly by breed and this quality is why different breeds tend to have different grooming requirements. It is thought that some breeds’ hair follicles stay in a resting state longer than others (e.g. Northern breeds), whereas others have hair that grows slowly but for longer (e.g. poodle type coats).
So, depending on your dog’s breed or genetic background and his current health, your dog’s coat and shedding levels can vary a lot! A few good key indicators to watch for are:
•A normal happy coat is one that is typically full, smooth, glossy and without excess dandruff (seborrhea) or hair loss (alopecia) or itchiness (pruritus).
•If your dog has a thick undercoat, such as that found in Northern breeds, you will probably experience a cyclical period of heavy shedding on a seasonal basis. Owners call this “blowing coat," and your dog will need extra grooming during this period to remove the excess fur and prevent mats.
•If your dog’s fur tends to slowly grow longer, instead of growing to a specific length and then falling out(like poodles or Shih Tzus), your dog will need either regularly brushing to detangle mats or regular trims.
•A well-balanced diet is key to maintaining a wonderful coat. Ensure your pup is eating a well-balanced diet, receiving ecto- and endo-parasite preventatives as indicated by your veterinarian, and ask your veterinarian if you ever have any questions about coat health or shedding.