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Understanding Coat Types and Shedding

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A husky is brushed by their owner

Is every item of clothing you own covered in cat hair? Is dog fur part of your décor? Dealing with pet hair can be a pain, but educating yourself about shedding in pets can help you keep those furry tumbleweeds at bay.

What Triggers Shedding?

Shedding is a normal function that helps animals get rid of their old winter or summer coats and grow new, weather-appropriate coats. When the warmer months approach, cats and dogs shed their winter undercoats for a lighter summer coat. When the colder months approach, they shed their lighter undercoats and grow thicker, warmer coats for winter.

However, shedding may sometimes be excessive or occur unexpectedly, indicating an underlying issue. Allergies, diet, skin conditions, and stress are just a few of the factors that may lead a cat or dog to shed more heavily than what’s considered usual for their breed. If you see that your furry friend is shedding more than usual or if something seems off with their fur, it's a good idea to investigate further.

Shedding is generally normal, but if you notice any unusual patterns like patchy hair loss, symmetrical hair loss in specific areas, or hair loss along with other skin issues, it's best to schedule a visit to the veterinarian. They'll be able to provide the right guidance and care for your pet.

Pet Shedding and Types of Fur Coats

Some dogs and cats naturally shed more than others. This is because the amount of shedding can vary depending on a few different factors, including type of coat, length of fur or hair, and breed.

Cat Coats: Short-Haired Breeds vs. Long-Haired Breeds

Different breeds of cats have different types of coats. Some cats have short hair, some have long, and some appear to have no fur at all! The type of coat your cat has may impact how much they shed. Let’s breakdown the various coats seen in different cat breeds, and what this means when it comes to shedding.

Short-haired cats have coats that are no longer than 1.5 inches, and compared to their long-haired relatives, they generally shed less. These cats don’t require as much grooming as long-haired cats and don’t usually get tangles on their fur.

If you’d like a soft, fluffy ball of fur, consider a long-haired cat. Depending on the breed, the coat of a long-haired cat can grow between 1.5 and 5 inches. These cats have plush coats that are silky and soft to touch. However, their luxurious locks come with a trade-off – they shed more often and need regular grooming to prevent matting and tangling.

Dog Coats

A dog’s coat can be hair, or it can be fur. Dog fur is shorter, denser, and rougher than hair, while dog hair has fewer layers, giving it a smoother and finer texture. Dogs with hair tend to shed less but can experience more knots and tangles. Dogs with fur, on the other hand, need less grooming overall, but they still need regular brushing to manage excessive shedding.

Every hair on your dog’s body has its own “life cycle” with three phases:

  1. Anagen phase: When hair actively grows.
  2. Catagen phase: When hair stops growing.
  3. Telegen phase: When hair falls out and gets replaced by new hair.

When your dog's hair grows to its predetermined length and starts to come out, it results in shedding. This shedding process, specifically in the undercoat, is commonly referred to as "The Shed." The majority of what is shed during this time is the dense and insulating undercoat, which serves as a protective layer.

Short-Haired Dog Breeds vs. Long-Haired Dog Breeds

If a dog’s fur is less than two inches long, it’s considered a short coat. That means that fur longer than two inches is a long coat. Long-haired breeds will require more at-home grooming, like brushing, to ensure they don’t knot, which can trap smells and parasites. And you may be surprised to learn that because a dog’s hair is long doesn’t automatically mean more shedding. Some of the dogs who shed the most are short-haired breeds.

Single Coat vs. Double Coat

Understanding a dog's single or double coat is crucial not only for grooming but also for managing shedding patterns effectively.

Single-coated dogs maintain a consistent year-round shedding pattern. The shedding tends to be more even, sparing clothes and furniture from excessive fur. While these breeds may be gentler on allergy sufferers due to reduced shedding, a single coat doesn't automatically mean they’re hypoallergenic.

Dogs with a double coat exhibit a shedding pattern that includes consistent year-round shedding and more significant seasonal sheds twice a year. This is called "blowing the coat.”

"Blowing coat" is a term used to describe the heavy shedding that occurs during seasonal changes, typically twice a year in double-coated breeds. This shedding phenomenon is a natural response to temperature variations and plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy coat.

Grooming double-coated breeds requires extra attention to prevent matting in the dense undercoat. Despite common misconceptions, shaving a double-coated dog won't reduce overall shedding; instead, it may interrupt the natural shedding cycle, leading to increased shedding post-shaving.

Tips for Taming the Fur Tornado

You can’t keep a dog or cat from shedding. But you can manage your pets shedding by regular grooming and keeping their coats clean and healthy.

  • Regular Grooming Routine – Establish a consistent grooming routine based on your pet's coat type. Regular brushing helps manage shedding and prevents matting.
  • Balanced Diet – Ensure your pet's diet is rich in nutrients essential for a healthy coat. Consult your veterinarian for dietary recommendations.
  • Allergy Considerations – If allergies are a concern, opt for breeds with low shedding qualities. Research and choose a pet that aligns with your family's needs.
  • Veterinary Check-ups – Schedule regular check-ups with your veterinarian to monitor your pet's overall health, including their coat condition.

By following these tips and understanding the nuances of shedding in pets, you can embrace your pet's gorgeous coat while keeping those annoying fur tumbleweeds under control.

An ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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