What Causes Shedding?
As mentioned above, for most dogs, shedding is a natural event that occurs a couple of times a year (spring and fall) as your dog gets ready for upcoming climate changes. Labradors have a double coat of hair. A lower coat of dense fur acts as an insulative barrier against the skin, helping to keep the dog warmer in the winter. Since labradors were first trained to be water dogs in the frigid temperatures of the Canadian wilderness, they had to adapt to the icy waters to retrieve fowl. For an excellent review of the history of Labrador Retrievers, see the excellent article on the AKC.org website.
The outer layer of fur is more extensive and designed to repel water and dirt from the skin and layer of hair below. In addition, the outer hairs are made to reflect heat and harmful UV rays that can cause sores, lesions, and cancer on exposed skin. Because a dog’s epidural layer is thinner than humans, it is easy to see the need for added protection.
What is a Normal Amount of Shedding?
There is no way to determine what might constitute an average amount of shedding. As an owner, you should notice that your Lab tends to shed more heavily twice a year, in spring and fall (and, it might seem, the months in between).
Are There Other Factors That Can Cause Shedding?
Even though Labs tend to shed a lot, other factors can contribute to the loss of hair in your pet.
- The usual response to the change of seasons
- Poor Diet
- Improper grooming
- Lack of adequate exercise
- Weight gain or loss
What Should I Do if I Suspect My Lab is Shedding more than Normal?
The best thing to do is consult with a veterinarian and allow them to do a complete check on your dog. They will examine various factors and check for signs of disease, sores, or tumors. In addition, they can make recommendations for diet and exercise that will help keep your Lab as active and healthy as possible.
What are Some Things I Can Do to Manage My Dog’s Shedding?
The good news is that some things can help minimize the amount of hair your dog sheds.
Regular Grooming and Brushing
Most Labradors need to be groomed about every four to six weeks. The grooming should include bathing and brushing, but not a haircut. As a general rule, a Labrador does not need to be shaved. Many owners believe that a haircut or shave of a Labrador's fur will tidy them up and help them not overheat during the hot summer months, but the exact opposite is true. A shaved coat exposes the skin to sunburn and harmful UV rays, which can dry the skin out, and natural oils a Lab has from lubricating and keeping skin soft.
Many companies make a variety of brushes that can be used to brush the fur from your Labradors coat. For an excellent review of dog brushes, check out this blog post from AKC.org.
Bathe Your Dog More Frequently
A regular warm bath can help release dead and decaying hair follicles from your dog’s exterior. (Any hair that goes down the drain is less hair that gets sucked into your home’s HVAC unit).
In addition, if you incorporate regular baths when your dog is a puppy, the less he will fight the water as an adult. Even though many labradors love outdoor water, if they are unfamiliar with a bathtub, the whole episode can be a trying experience for them).
Care should be taken not to wash your dog too frequently, as many shampoos and pet soaps can affect the ph balance of your Lab’s skin, drying it out and making it more susceptible to sores.
Change Your Dog’s Diet to Something More Healthy
The cause of your dog’s shedding could be as simple as changing their diet. If a dog is not getting enough nutrients or vitamins because of the discount dog food you are feeding them, give them something more fortified, and see if that doesn’t help. Many premium foods include items designed to help with a dog's coat, so invest a few dollars more rather than skimping on processed foods that don’t even meet their daily requirements.
Dehydration can be a Cause
Water helps digestion, brain activity, and removing impurities from your dog’s systems. Shedding can be a natural response if your dog is not drinking enough water or is dehydrated. Be sure your dog has a steady supply of fresh water. Consider investing in dish and bowl combinations that can replenish the number of fluids your dog drinks.
Many Lab owners think picking up a water dish at certain times will prevent the dog from having accidents and relieve themselves on the grandmother's old sofa. While most vets agree that during housebreaking, it is okay to pick up the water bowl an hour or two before going to bed, you do not want to do it more often than that. Proper housebreaking training and effective cleaning of pee areas will help keep the dog from relieving themselves in the same spots. (Dogs are creatures of habit - the scents of previous accidents will drive them to think that the spot is the place to go if you catch my drift).
Exercise Plays a Role
To keep your Lab healthy and active, ensure that you incorporate regular exercise. Daily walking and keep your dog alert and attentive, as well as provide cardio and movement to keep joints and hips working correctly. Labradors tend to have hip issues in their later years, which is another reason to perform adequate exercise daily.
Medication Needs to Be Up To Date
If you fail to keep up with your Labrador's medications, your dog will be unprotected against fleas, ticks, and dust mites. Various things can lead a dog to scratch more than usual, and every scratch releases more hair follicles into the environment. In addition, sores or open wounds caused by constant scratching can cause health issues that lead to additional hair loss. For an article about various pet medications and their value, see avma.org.
Purchase Furnace Filters that Capture Pet Dander
There aren’t just things you should do with or to your dog to help prevent shedding. Some passive things like furnace filters and room air purifiers can be purchased and implemented in areas to help keep allergens to a minimum. A robotic vacuum that runs while you are at work can help prepare your living space for your return.
About THE AUTHOR
Mark is the founder of Everything Labradors and a husband and father of 3. He enjoys spending time with his family, including his dog Molly, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix. He’s a big fan of the outdoors and loves to travel to new places.Read more about Mark Brunson