All dogs, even those commonly referred to as “non-shedding” breeds, grow new hair and shed dead fur. Some shedding is seasonal, some occurs throughout the year, and some happens when puppies transition from their soft puppy fuzz to their adult coat. Puppy shedding is perfectly natural, and while your little friend may look scraggly, he will return to his former glory once his adult coat fills in.
What is Shedding?
Shedding is a natural process for all dogs, young and old. Shedding occurs when old, dead hair comes loose and falls from the coat. Dogs shed hundreds of hairs every day, which you may notice clinging to your clothes or scattered around your home. In the fall, dogs lose the lighter summer coat they grew in the spring in favor of plush winter coats. In the spring, this heavy coat is shed in batches and clumps to make way for lighter, sleeker summer hair. Indoor dogs may not shed as heavily as dogs that go outside, since the temperature and environment influence how much coat is shed. In curly-haired breeds, such as poodles, shed hair often gets tangled in the coat and may not be as noticeable as shedding in straight-coated breeds.
From Puppies to Adults
When puppies are born, they are covered in a light, fuzzy coat known as a puppy coat. This hair, much like that of a human baby, is soft and delicate. This coat helps keep the puppy warm and protect him from the elements. Each puppy begins to shed at a different age, but you should see some changes between 12 and 16 weeks of age. The soft puppy fuzz will start to look thin and patchy, and may fall out in clumps. The harsher adult coat will start to show through the fuzz, and you may notice a change in the dog’s coat color, which is normal. The length of time it takes to shed a puppy coat also varies; some dogs will shed out in just a few days, while others may not lose their fuzz for months.
Start grooming your puppy as soon as you get him home. Use a soft-bristled brush, and brush the puppy’s entire body. Brush with the direction of the coat, and clean shed hair from the bristles frequently to remove as much puppy coat as possible. If your puppy is a thick-haired breed such as an Alaskan malamute or German shepherd, you may need to use a slicker brush or coat rake. Brush your puppy for at least 15 minutes a day to acclimate your puppy to grooming and speed up the shedding process.
When to Worry
Shedding is normal, large patches of bare skin or extremely thin coat may be signs of underlying health problems. If your puppy scratches or bites at his skin, he may be suffering from allergies. Red, scaly spots that feel warm to the touch, also known as hot spots, are common skin conditions that should be treated promptly. Schedule your pup for an immediate veterinary exam if you notice any skin abnormalities or injuries under his coat.