Cat & Dog Shedding: Why it Happens & How to Manage [Step-By-Step]

A black dog experiencing dog shedding, lying next to clumps of fur that have been brushed off by their owner

As a pet owner, you probably love curling up to your beloved dog or cat. The only (minor) downside to it is having fur strands on clothing, furniture, and other surfaces. 

You may have observed increased cat or dog shedding during warm seasons, which is normal for many breeds. But what about shedding that occurs after a change in diet or shedding that has no apparent cause? (Is it ever really without cause?)

In this guide, we look at the factors that influence dog or cat shedding. Along the way, we’ll also cover helpful tips for managing (and possibly reducing) shedding in dogs and cats.

What’s in This Guide?

Why Do Dogs and Cats Shed?

Dog and cat shedding happens naturally. Many pets shed throughout the year and some shed more during certain seasons. Shedding is also influenced by other factors like nutrition and underlying health issues. In this section, we talk about all these factors one by one.

1. Year-Round Shedding: Hair Growth Cycles 

Dogs and cats shed dead and damaged hair all year. This is normal. Most follow a yearly four-stage growth cycle that includes these phases:

  • Anagen: New hair growth.
  • Catagen: Hair stops growing because it's full length.
  • Telogen: Hair is neither growing nor shedding. 
  • Exogen: Active shedding.

2. Cat or Dog Seasonal Shedding 

Some pets, such as pets with thick coats, are cyclical or seasonal shedders. These dogs and cats typically shed their undercoats every spring and fall. This means that on top of their usual shedding throughout the year, they will shed more during these seasons. 

So why does this happen? As days get longer, the increase in daylight hours can prompt pets to shed their long winter coats during spring. The opposite occurs in the fall when shorter days trigger the shedding of old hair and the growth of new hair in preparation for winter. 

Seasonal shedding can be observed in dog breeds such as collies, Siberian huskies, and German shepherds. Cat breeds that exhibit the same seasonal shedding include Russian blues, ragdolls, and American bobtails

Note: Some pets may also shed more amidst the warm temperature so moderate to heavy shedding can also be observed during summer.
A cat being brushed during the summer to help reduce cat shedding during warmer temperatures

3. Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies involving protein, fat, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin B7 (biotin) can also cause hair loss in dogs and cats. These nutrients are essential components that help in maintaining a thick, healthy coat. If you observe increased hair loss in your pet following a dietary change, there may be a chance that the new diet is not providing enough of the above essential nutrients. 

Note: For pet parents who suspect hair loss due to dietary deficiencies, we recommend scheduling a nutritional consultation with a licensed veterinarian.  

4. Cat or Dog Shedding Due to Medical Issues

Certain medical conditions may lead to cat or dog hair loss. Depending on the medical issue causing a dog or cat’s excessive shedding, there may be other co-occurring symptoms present: red or irritated skin, sores, rashes, and scratching. 

Here are some of the common reasons:

a. Allergies in Dogs & Cats

Allergies in dogs and cats are a common culprit. Even though both dogs and cats need meat in their diet, some proteins are allergens to individual pets. For instance, beef is one of the most common allergies in dogs — and though surprising to many pet parents, some cats are actually allergic to fish.

b. Skin Issues & Parasites

Skin issues, such as the presence of can mange, ringworm in dogs & cats, ticks, and fleas can also cause abnormal cat or dog shedding — along with itching and visible changes to the dog's or cat's skin.

c. Systemic Issues

Last but not least, cat or dog hair loss can be linked to other systemic issues such as Cushing’s disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and hypothyroidism. These issues affect the skin and coat in various ways depending on the condition present.

Note: For pet parents who suspect a medical issue causing their pet’s abnormal shedding, we encourage reaching out to a trusted veterinarian.
A dog going to Sploot Veterinary Care in Denver, Colorado to get checked for the reason behind increased dog shedding

How to Reduce Shedding in Dogs & Cats

Considering the factors that influence cat and dog shedding, here is a checklist of things that a pet parent can do to reduce shedding:

  1. Have your pet allergy-tested so that you can avoid giving them food that triggers their allergy.
  2. Feed your pet a vet-approved diet that provides all the nutrients they need to support a healthy skin and coat.  
  3. Brush or comb your dog's or cat's coat frequently to remove the dead hair and encourage healthy growth. Brush pets with thick double coats weekly and long-haired breeds twice a week.
  4. Give your dog or cat regular baths to remove dander and dead hairs. Bathing also prevents matting and dirt accumulation that can lead to increased shedding. Be sure to use a gentle shampoo that won't dry out the skin. 
  5. Schedule regular veterinary wellness exams to ensure the early detection of skin parasites, skin diseases, or systemic conditions that can lead to hair loss and balding.
A dog getting a regular bath in order to reduce dog shedding

How to Prepare Your Home for Your Pet’s Shedding Season

Even if you’ve taken all the steps needed to help reduce shedding, chances are your pet will still shed fur to some degree, especially if they are a seasonal shedder. Here are a few extra tips to prepare your home for cat or dog shedding season:

  1. Protect your furniture with furniture covers that you can easily vacuum or wash regularly. 
  2. Try training your dog or cat to keep off furniture or to only climb up on areas that are protected by a blanket or furniture cover. 
  3. Vacuum regularly to pick up freshly shed hairs before they become embedded in upholstery and are more challenging to remove. You might also consider getting a robotic vacuum that will clean hair off your floors daily.
  4. Sweep hard floors with a microfiber material or broom that attracts hair. This is a quick and easy way to avoid tracking hair through the house.
  5. Keep a supply of lint rollers on hand to remove stubborn pet hair from furniture and clothing.
A white cat watching their owner use a lint roller to remove cat shedding stuck to their clothes

Final Thoughts on Cat or Dog Shedding

We hope you found this guide helpful! As a pet owner, it's unlikely that you can avoid shedding altogether. However, it's a small price to pay for the joy of a pet's company. As a final reminder, we recommend that pet parents seek veterinary advice if they suspect underlying health issues or nutritional deficiencies contributing to dog or cat shedding.

If you suspect excessive or abnormal cat or dog shedding, we are here to help! Sploot Veterinary Care is a primary and urgent care veterinary clinic with multiple clinic locations.

Schedule an appointment online or through the Sploot Vets app. We accept same-day appointments as well as urgent intakes, 365 days a year, until 10 pm.  

Till next time, we're with you every pounce of the way!