Q. My 9-year-old Corgi mix has hair that is falling out in clumps. No amount of grooming, including haircuts and daily brushing at home, prevents or changes it. He sheds his usual amount but now has clumps falling out. He has no bald spots, no particular itchy spots, no rashes or allergic reactions to anything. He just sheds constantly – and now with the addition of clumps. Do you have any ideas what could be causing this?
A. Most dogs will go through many phases of impressive shedding throughout their lifetimes. Certain breeds are considered heavy shedders, including dogs with arctic breed-type fur (like huskies), retriever coats and shepherd-y pelts, but any kind of dog will shed. Even poodles shed (though almost imperceptibly).
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Shedding is a normal part of being a dog. The quantity of hair and the frequency of the cycles shedders go through varies not only by breed type, but by age and lifestyle, too. That’s why indoor dogs and those who live in temperate climates tend to experience less dramatic cycles of shedding.
Environmental stress, normal hormonal fluctuations and medical conditions can also influence shedding. But sometimes it seems like there’s no rhyme or reason to the shedding pattern, which can be frustrating.
Here’s the rule of thumb: As long as there are no bald spots, even severe shedding may be normal. (I have shepherds, so I know about clumps!) But if your dog’s shedding pattern has recently changed, I would urge you to see your veterinarian.
Here are our foremost medical considerations for problem shedders:
- Thyroid disease (low thyroid hormone levels lead to skin issues in dogs, including abnormal shedding patterns)
- Sex hormone-related issues (hair loss is common in these cases)
- Cushings disease (an adrenal gland condition of older dogs)
- Allergic skin disease (more typically leads to itching-related hair loss)
- Infections (fungal or bacterial, typically secondary to allergies)
- Poor nutrition
- Environmental stress
- Reduced mobility (dogs who move less due to arthritis or other conditions may shed in clumps because they’re not shedding as routinely and gradually as they should be)
If your veterinarian decides your dog is healthy, this clumping shedding pattern may well be his new normal – for now. Consider adding fish oil or other fatty acids to his daily regimen. This can help improve skin quality overall. Brushing his fur with a Furminator-type tool is also indispensable. This way the clumps end up in the trash, not on your floor.