Dog shedding is a fact of life that Australian Shepherd owners eventually must come to terms with. Unfortunately, except in a very few cases of other breeds with extremely short or tightly curled coats, all dogs will shed hair.
Some breeds shed more often than others but most often dogs will shed twice a year, in anticipation of the heavy winter months and the heat of summer. Whether your dog is a regular shedder or has less frequent but heavy shedding periods, it can be a challenge to keep up with the constant accumulation of hair.
Actually, shedding is not unique to dogs. Even humans regularly shed old or damaged hair as part of the body's natural cycle. Dogs are no exception. They need to rid themselves of old hair and make room for a new, softer coat for added warmth in the winter and then lose those thicker coats in the spring before the hot weather sets in. The more time a dog stays indoors, the less it will need to go through this coat building and shedding process.
Healthy dog shedding can seem excessive but is usually predictable. There are several conditions that might cause a dog to shed more than usual, including allergies, kidney or thyroid disorders, some forms of cancer and certain immune diseases. Other possible causes of excessive shedding can include stress, skin irritations that cause frequent licking, and side effects of some medications. If you notice any signs of skin irritation or your dog's shedding seems unusually excessive you should take him to the vet to determine if there is an underlying cause.
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In many cases excessive shedding can be controlled with proper nutrition. In fact, some pet food manufacturers specifically formulate their products to include supplementation that ensures a healthy coat. Your veterinarian can recommend a particular food that may help to control your dog's shedding. This can be especially tricky in cases of allergies or other sensitivities, so some experimentation may be necessary to find a food that works for your dog.
Aside from diet, the only way to control dog shedding is with regular grooming. The more often your dog sheds, the more often you should brush him. In most cases, brushing should take place once a week or several times a week. For particularly heavy shedders, it may be necessary to brush them every day. The type of brush you use will depend on the length of your dog's coat. While shorter coated breeds can be groomed with natural bristle brushes or a glove with bristles, but for Aussies you might need a bit more.
For heavier coats or breeds with a double coat like the Australian Shepherd, you'll need a tool that can reach through the thick outer coat to the undercoat. Regardless of coat length the brushing process is always the same, brushing in the direction of growth and in the opposite direction to pull up and remove the hair.
For Aussies you can expect to brush two to three times a week in order to remove dead hair and keep shedding to a minimum. For working herders or active dogs who go outdoors a lot it is especially important to keep their coat clean and healthy.
There is no way around it...dog shedding is a regular challenge and a necessary part of keeping your dog healthy. Buy the right type of brush and use it frequently and make sure your dog is getting a balanced diet and you can help to keep hair loss to a minimum. However, every Aussie owner should be prepared to deal with a certain amount of shedding.
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