Dog Hair Care and Treatment

"Grooming and nutrition contribute to dog hair texture and condition. There are many diseases that can result in a dog losing hair, with most causes of unknown origin. A list of the most common reasons is listed below. Some canine hair loss may be due to genetics, breed disposition, history of physical injury or excessive grooming. All dog skin lesions that accompany hair loss  and any canine hair that has a bad odor and is accompanied by itching or scaly skin needs to examined by a veterinarian."

If you are having a canine health hair problem, then proper grooming and understanding why your dog may be shedding or losing hair can be helpful. Reasons for your dog hair problems can be breed specific, temporary, or require removal of the underlying cause.

Grooming Dog Hair

Regular brushing and combing will keep your dog's coat clean and avoid matting. Start grooming your dog's at a young age in short sessions to get them used to it. If your dog resists when brushing legs, try doing it without holding onto the leg or keeping it from moving, it is the lack of motion control that makes most dogs object.

Before brushing consider something that takes away the static electricity from the coat such as an anti static conditioner. The hair should not stretch when combed. The best brush is for all types of dogs is a pin brush.  An alternative would be a slicker brush with soft to medium bristles.

Bathing Frequency and Dog Shampoo Selection

Do not use human shampoo on dog hair as it is too harsh. A good choice for everyday care is Kiehls For Your Dog shampoo and conditioner or Manage Mites Shampoo. Most dogs only need to be bathed once every 2 months in the winter, and 1x to 2x in the summer.  Ideally a shampoo should be formulated for your dog's skin and hair.  In term so conditioners, use the type that is rinsed out after shampooing.  Use a type that stays on your dog for an indefinite time in between baths during brushing to prevent any hair tangling.  Opt for products that are all-natural and fragrance free.

Reasons for a Dog Losing Hair

There are many medical and unknown reasons for your dog losing hair or shedding an unusual amount of hair. Reasons include:

Dog Hair Loss by Breed

Dog Breed
Dog Hair Loss Problem
Dachshund, Manchester Terriers, Miniature Pinschers, Chihuahua
High incidence of dog pattern baldness.  There is no known treatment.
Sled Dogs
Clipping the hair can stop hair growth temporarily.
Toy breeds, Small breeds
Post rabies vaccine alopecia. Lesions appear 2 to 3 months after the rabies vaccine due to hypersensitivity to a skin reaction.  Injections of steroids and penicillin can also cause the problem
Multicolored Dogs, Airedales, Boxers
Hair loss in one color. Seen mainly in the head and neck area. Boxers can see hair loss on each side of the pre-pubic area.
Dachshunds, Boston Terriers, Chihuahuas, Whippets, Italian Greyhounds. Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Poodles
Canine pinnal alopecia (dog losing hair around ears) is a condition where hair loss begins after 1 year of age and continues until a dog is losing all hair at age 8 or 9. Treatment includes thyroid therapy and the use of testosterone (males). Cocker Spaniel hair loss occurs at the ear margins.

Miniature Poodles get periodic dog ear hair loss (alopecia) where tufts of hair fall out.  Hair regrowth occurs on its own after a few months.
Poodle, Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier, Shih-tzu
Canine traction alopecia is due to rubber bands and barrettes that owners place on these breeds

Dog Bald Patches Around Eyes

If your dog is losing hair around the eyes then your pet is suffering from demodex mites, a condition otherwise known as dog mange. To treat mange consider a treatment such as Naturasil for Pet Mange. The same company makes Benzarid which is an all natural way to rid your home of the mites.

Dog Hair Odor and Smell

Dog smell is not caused by just one odor, but is a combination of odors. The odor become strong and combine when a wet dog's hair is brushed. The odor is caused by a chemical reaction between the hair and the water, causing a range of odors. Smells that develop include sulfur, medicinal or feces, mushroom, fruity, floral, earthy and branched or complex aldehydes. It is this last category that increases the most when the hair is wet.

If your dog suddenly has an itch, is losing hair and smells then your should bring her to the veterinarian to check for infection (bacterial, fungal etc.).

Dog Hair and Diet

Dog hair is made up of 90% protein. It is essential that your dog's diet contain enough protein to help the skin and hair stay healthy. The other important component are amino acids.

If you suspect diet is the problem, then consider gradually changing your dog's food to another product. If your dog's skin appears dry consider a food like Hill's® Science Diet® Adult Sensitive Skin dog food. Also consider supplementation with an omega-3 fish oil supplement and a herbal remedy designed to support the skin such as PetAlive Skin and Coat Tonic for Healthy Skin and a Glossy Coat in Pets.

Dog Shedding Hair

All dogs shed hair. The difference is the amount of hair being shed and the frequency. On all dogs as new hair grows it will push out old hair causing shedding. Shedding will increase as the days get shorter and then slow down as it gets light longer.  Of help might be our guide to the best dog hair vacuums.

If you dog's hair appears unhealthy, dull or brittle then consider some of the products mentioned above and see if the problem of dog shedding hair improves over time.

Have a Question About a Dog Hair Problem or a Story that can help others?

Do you have a Dog Hair and Coat related Question for our Editors or a Helpful Story to Share? Please include information such as age, sex, breed, medical history, areas where your dog is experiencing hair loss, skin and other symptoms, medications your dog is taking, recent changes in behavior, etc. A picture of the condition would also be helpful.

We will do our best to get back to you quickly (depends on how many questions we receive each day). If you do require an immediate response we suggest using this online dog veterinary service that is available now.

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Compounds Responsible for the Odor of Dog Hair Coat
*Linda Young, Phillipe Pollien, Deborah Roberts, Jill Cline
*Nestle Purina PTC
St. Joseph, Missouri, US

Washington State University

Nutrition, Skin Care and Coat
Fabienne Dethioux, DVM, MRCVS

Oh My Dog
Beth Ostrosky Sterm

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