Shedding is a normal for dogs and cats. Dogs have approximately 15,000 hairs per square inch. Cats have between 60,000 and 120,000 hairs per square inch. All of these hairs go through the same four stages of developments, but they are not all in the same phase at one time. Growth of hair occurs in a mosaic pattern, so shedding does as well. This explains why dogs and cats can shed without developing bald patches.
Shedding is one-way animal adapt to their environments. Changes in photoperiod and external temperatures are they two driving forces behind shedding season. In this region this typically means that dogs and cats will shed in the spring and fall seasons. However, since most pets live indoors with a relatively consistent temperature and photoperiod they seem to shed all year round.
When to worry?
Obviously if you are concerned we should investigate. Is the shedding normal or is it excessive? The first step in this determination is to have a physical exam performed by a veterinarian. Your veterinarian will perform an exam to look for thinning of the hair or alopecia. Veterinarians will also look for poor body condition, skin lesions, redness, and pigment changes to list a few.
Medical problems that can cause thinning of the coat or alopecia can include, infectious, hormonal imbalances, autoimmune or immune mediated diseases, and other.
- Infectious agents can include skin parasites like sarcoptic mange, demodectic mange, fleas, fungal or bacterial infections.
- The most common hormonal diseases that can cause alopecia are thyroid dysfunction, Cushing’s disease or hypoadrenocorticism, or Alopecia X.
- Common autoimmune disease that cause hair loss include vasculitis, or sebaceous adenitis.
- The other category includes problems like cancer, follicular dysplasia, some forms of ichthyosis, color dilute alopecia and cyclical canine alopecia, which is also called seasonal or cyclical flank alopecia.
In summary shedding is normal. However, if you are concerned please call and schedule an appointment with a veterinarian to ensure your pet is in good health. There are countless promotions online, or on TV that “stop shedding”. Stopping shedding is impossible as it is a normal bodily function of our pets. Shedding is normal, so please keep calm and brush on.
Tips to help manage hair include:
- Brushing. While brushes and combs specifically designed to strip the coat are useful, they only stop shedding by making you comb the hair out before it falls out.
- Nutritional supplements. Nutritional supplements usually contain blends of omega fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Please discuss these with your veterinarian prior to adding supplements to your pet’s diet.
- Minimizing stress. Believe it or not stress is the most common factor increasing shedding. Stressors can include a trip in the car, or a new visitor to the home.