Why Dogs Shed in the Winter

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Why Dogs Shed In The Winter

People are often fascinated by their pets and the ways that their bodies work. One thing that pet owners often want to know is why dogs shed in winter. In order to understand the reasons that dogs shed, one must also understand a dog’s coat.

The coat of a dog consists of two layers. These are the longer outer layer, or overcoat, and the dense, insulating inner layer, or undercoat. All of a dog’s hair goes through three cycles, although not all the hair will be in the same cycle. The hair grows during the anagen phase, goes through a transition period during the catagen phase, and rests and dies during the telogen phase. The hairs that die during the telogen phase fall off, which is known as shedding. A dog’s hair will not all be in the same phase at the same time, but there are certain times of year in which the telogen phase is dominant, which causes more shedding to occur. These cycles are largely influenced by the amount of daylight in a given period.

The amount of daylight changes seasonally with more daytime during the summer and more darkness during the winter. The spring and fall are known as the equinoxes because during this transition period the day and night are nearly equal. The gradual decrease in sunlight during the fall causes a great deal of shedding to occur. It may seem like this shedding would be counterproductive and make the dog cold, but this is only the beginning of this cycle. The dog sheds its lighter summer coat in order to make room for a thicker, longer winter coat. This coat will then be shed during the spring to make room for the summer coat once again. These major coat changes during the spring and fall allow the dog to keep warmer during the winter months when it needs the most protection, while still being able to keep cool during the summer.

As you can see, the reason why dogs shed in the winter is that they need to make room for a warmer winter coat. This allows them to better regulate their body temperatures and protect themselves from the weather. Exposure to a lot of artificial light may make dogs shed more throughout the year, but the most active shedding seasons should still begin in the spring and fall.

The best solution for pet owners to maintain the coat of a dog who sheds excessively is to brush consistently.  While a normal brush will work fine, brushes designed specifically to control shedding such as the FURminator are highly recommended for anyone with a serious hair problem in their home.  A couple other recommended options would be shampoo for dog shedding, and deshedding food supplements.

Sources:
http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&A=307&S=1
http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+2083&aid=357

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1 Paula April 21, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Great post, I’ve actually always wondered that myself. Our german sheppard is terrible about shedding, our current solutions includes a furminator and a bath every few months, but we try to avoid too many baths since it pulls oils off of the dog’s coat. So, we end up brushing maybe once every week or two, and pull off hair the size of a basket ball every time!

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