All healthy dogs shed at times. There are many things that contribute to normal shedding, including the dog’s breed, the climate where you live, and what time of year it is. But other issues can cause shedding as well, including illness, stress, and poor nutrition.
A dog’s diet can contribute to excess shedding. High-quality dog foods made with high-quality ingredients support a dog’s whole body nutrition, including healthy skin and fur. Food made with low-quality ingredients and fillers, meanwhile, may cause your dog to lose more fur than necessary.
In the rest of this article, we’ll examine shedding: why dogs shed in the first place, what factors may cause a dog to shed more, and how the dog’s food might increase the amount of fur they lose. We’ll also take a look at some of the best dog food options to support a healthy coat.
All dogs shed to a certain degree; it’s part of a dog’s genetic makeup. Dogs have three different types of fur: the undercoat, which is thick and fluffy, and provides extra warmth; guard hairs, which is the stiffer, outer layer fur that protects the undercoat; and whiskers, which grow around the nose and mouth and help with the dog’s senses.
Ultimately, a dog’s different types of fur, and the sheer amount of it, work together to give them a thick coat that protects them from cold and adverse weather. Dogs have multiple hairs growing out of each hair follicle. When an individual hair gets old, it stops growing and is eventually shed from the follicle, making room for new hair to grow in. This is, essentially, what shedding is.
However, the amount that any individual dog sheds is influenced by more than just basic genetics. Dogs may shed more or less depending on what breed they are, what time of year it is, and what the overall climate is like where they live.
Certain breeds of dogs definitely shed more than others. This is because some breeds have more fur than others, or a thicker undercoat, or were traditionally bred in a climate where seasonal changes caused them to need thicker fur in winter and thinner fur in summer, or vice versa.
Dog breeds that shed heavily include:
- Border collies
- German shepherds
- Golden retrievers
- Labrador retrievers
- Siberian huskies
- St. Bernards
However, this is not an all-inclusive list, and various mixed breeds may also shed heavily depending on their individual heritage.
It’s important to be aware of how much grooming and maintenance your dog will need before you adopt them. Some owners can keep shedding under control with regular brushing and bathing at home, while others may prefer to enlist the aid of a professional dog groomer.
The weather can play a huge role in your dog’s regular shedding pattern. Interestingly enough, our canine friends evolved so that their fur coats respond to both temperature and the amount of daylight they’re exposed to every day. This means that a dog will naturally have a thicker coat in the winter to keep warm; when temperatures start to warm and the hours of daylight lengthen, dogs shed a good deal of that extra fur.
It seems less intuitive to think that dogs also shed a lot again in the fall, but it’s normal. Their bodies are again responding to the changing season, and shedding their “summer coat” allows their fur to grow back thicker for colder winter temperatures.
These differences are less pronounced for dogs who live in places where the weather doesn’t change as dramatically by season. Likewise, dogs who spend most of their time indoors also generally don’t shed as much in spring and fall, because their bodies don’t have to deal with the temperature fluctuations.
Other times, excessive shedding can be caused by some sort of illness or infestation. A dog who is infested with fleas or lice may shed more due to extra scratching. Certain fungal or bacterial infections can also lead to extra shedding.
Allergies can cause shedding too. This can include food allergies, which we’ll come to in a moment, or allergies plants, things in the air, or other topical things they may come in contact with. Sometimes shedding can be a reaction to a medication the dog is taking for an unrelated concern.
More serious issues that can cause excess shedding include cancer, kidney disease, liver disease, or thyroid problems. Pregnant dogs, or dogs who are nursing puppies, may also have unusual shedding patterns.
All of these causes can be serious, so if your dog is shedding excessively, a trip to the vet should be one of your first steps. A professional can help you rule out or pinpoint medical causes of shedding, and help you figure out the next steps to take.
Sometimes, stressful situations can cause a dog to shed more. Potential stressors can include moving to a new home, changes to family makeup (new baby, death, divorce, deployment, etc.), or even anxiety over seemingly everyday situations like a visit to the veterinarian or the groomer.
If a dog is shedding because of stress, the situation may resolve itself on its own, but sometimes it may be necessary to enlist the help of your vet or a behaviorist. Behavioral therapy may alleviate the problem. In other cases, the dog may benefit from dietary supplements or even anti-anxiety medicine.
Finally, the foods your dog eats can contribute to how much they shed. Well-balanced dog food should contain all the ingredients a dog needs for a healthy life in the form of meats, vegetables, and nutritional supplements, especially omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Along with including the necessities, it’s important to make sure that the food you select does not contain any fillers. It’s common for cheaper dog brands to contain “filler” ingredients like wheat and corn, both of which can be potentially irritating to your dog’s digestive system–and which can therefore cause excess shedding.
Avoid foods that contain bone meal and animal by-products, which are legal dog food additives but add little or no nutritional value. Dog foods also absolutely do not need to contain any kind of food dyes; many common dyes are linked to allergy issues in both people and animals. Dog foods also don’t need extra sodium.
Finally, avoid dog foods that contain the preservatives Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), or Propyl gallate. These preservatives are often added to dog food to stabilize the fat and oils in the food and extend shelf life, but they cause health issues and are not good for animals to actually eat.
Some dog foods are better than others, and finding the right food to prevent excessive shedding in your canine companion might take some trial and error, plus a lot of label reading.
Fortunately, we’ve done some of the work for you! We’ve looked into some of the most balanced, thoughtfully-formulated dog foods currently on the market and found some options that will support your dog’s healthy coat.
Acana makes pet food with a formulation close to nature, packed with the nutrients dogs need most for good health. Their Wild Atlantic formula is loaded with whole fish: meat, organs, and bone. The food contains 70% animal ingredients, including extra liver for added nutrients, and is supplemented with a wide array of vitamins and minerals for overall health.
Available in 4.5 – 25 lb. (2.04 -11.34 kg) packages.
Dogs with sensitive skin benefit most from an ample supply of omega fatty acids, and Annamaet’s Aqualuk formula is packed with wild salmon and herring and all the nutrients that come with those cold-water fish. With no grains, healthy carbohydrates, and all the added nutritional supplements your dog could need, this food is a solid choice for dogs struggling with sensitive skin.
Available in 5 – 25 lb. (2.27 -11.34 kg) packages.
Pet food company AvoDerm offers lots of excellent, nutritionally-balanced options for dogs in every stage of life, and their Grain Free Limited Ingredient line is excellent for dogs with sensitive stomachs, which may be dealing with skin issues as a result. With whole meat protein, non-grain carbohydrates, and an extensive list of nutritional supplements, these foods are packed with all the necessary ingredients for healthy skin and a healthy coat.
Available in 4 – 22 lb. (1.81 – 9.98 kg) packages.
Natural pet food makers Blue Buffalo have put together a winning dog food formula with True Solutions Perfect Coat. Formulated with salmon, rice, cranberries, and other wholesome ingredients, this blend contains the omega fatty acids and other vital nutrients your dog needs for healthy skin. It’s free of corn, wheat, soy, and other common irritants, free of fillers and free of preservatives.
Available in 4 – 24 lb. (1.81 – 10.89 kg) packages.
Crave dog food is packed with the protein your dog evolved to eat. This Salmon & Ocean Fish blend has 34% protein content and isn’t filled up with corn, soy, wheat, or other grains that dogs don’t want or need. With salmon as the first ingredient, this food provides plenty of omega fatty acids to support healthy skin and reduce excess shedding. Dogs with sensitive skin will almost certainly feel some relief.
Available in 4 – 22 lb. (1.81 – 9.98 kg) packages.
Formulated with salmon, vegetables, lentils, and a delectable assortment of other nutrient-dense ingredients, the Skin & Coat variety of Diamond Naturals dog food is specifically free of grains and other foods that might upset more delicate stomachs and cause skin irritation as a result.
With probiotics, antioxidants, and other nutritional supplements, this food will improve your dog’s skin and hopefully reduce the amount of excess fur you find around your house.
Available in 15 – 30 lb. (6.80 – 13.61 kg) packages.
Give your dogs the freshest food available with this Grain Free Chicken option from FreshPet. Unlike many other conventional brands of dog food, FreshPet is not either dry kibble or canned wet food but instead comes refrigerated, reflecting the freshness of the ingredients it’s made of, as well as its lack of preservatives.
Made primarily of chicken, carrots, and spinach, and fortified with all the essential vitamins and nutrients your dog needs for good health, this food will be great for sensitive skin and overall health.
Available in 1.75 lb. (0.79 kg) packages.
Dogs who are suffering from skin issues can benefit from a specially formulated food like this Skin/Food Sensitivities dog food from Hill’s Science Diet. Formulated with a limited ingredient list with no grain or gluten and no soy, this food is instead rich with protein, omega fatty acids, and antioxidants to support whole-body health.
Available in 7 – 25 lb. (3.18 – 11.34 kg) packages.
This simple, straightforward dog food formula from Instinct Pet Food really lives up to the name Limited Ingredient Diet, with one form of animal protein, one vegetable ingredient, and additional fatty acids and other nutritional supplements. This is raw dog food, processed instead with a cold pressure technology to preserve nutrients and keep the ingredients in their most natural state, making it more digestible.
Available in 4 – 20 lb. (1.81 – 9.07 kg) packages.
Every variety of dog food by Whole Earth Farms is formulated with high protein content, no grains, and a variety of vegetables, fruits, and other plant matter that your dog will love. This high-quality food is free of preservatives, food dyes, and artificial flavors, instead of packed only with solid nutrition that will help your dog live their best life.
Available in 2 – 25 lb. (0.91 – 11.34 kg) packages.
The Synergy Dry Dog Formula from Natural Balance contains an excellent mix of ingredients for your dog’s whole body health. With chicken, lamb, eggs, healthy grains, and carbohydrates, plus nutritional supplements and prebiotics, this dog food supports healthy skin, builds strong muscle, and helps keep your pup’s digestive system regular.
Available in 4.5 – 26 lb. (2.04 – 11.79 kg) packages.
This vegetarian Healthy Skin dog food formula from Nature’s Recipe includes all the essential ingredients to support your dog’s overall health and is specially packed with what your dog needs for healthy skin and a healthy coat. Omega fatty acids, linoleic acid, zinc, and other vitamins and minerals mean your dog is getting the most well-rounded nutrition imaginable, and soybeans and healthy whole grains provide ample protein.
Available in 30 lb. (13.61 kg) packages.
Nutro offers an excellently formulated Limited Ingredient Diet dog food line that’s perfect for dogs with food allergies, sensitive stomachs, and skin issues. Most varieties in this line are made with 10 primary ingredients or less, plus additional nutritional supplements to ensure your dog is getting the best nutrition available.
Available in 4 – 22 lb (1.81 – 9.98) packages.
Orijen specializes in pet food that’s as close as you can get to the diet your pets naturally evolved to eat. The Six Fish dog food formula contains plenty of omega fatty acids to support your dog’s healthy skin and fur. As a primarily raw food, the nutrients contained in it are more bioavailable, giving your dog the best nutrition possible.
Available in 4.5 – 25 lb. (2.04 – 11.34 kg) packages.
The folks at Purina are experts at animal nutrition, and their line of Sensitive Skin and Stomach dog foods are specially formulated for ease of digestion and to promote overall health. All foods in this line have specific meat as the number one ingredient, and they contain healthy grains like oatmeal or rice, marine and plant oils for omega fatty acids, antioxidants, minerals, and prebiotic fiber.
This food is available for both puppies and adults, as well as special blends for small and large breeds.
Available in 4 – 35 lb. (1.81 – 15.88) packages.
Wellness Pet Foods has a ton of fantastic dog food formulations, but if excess shedding and skin health is your concern, the Limited Ingredient options are a surefire solution. Two varieties are formulated with a single source of protein and easily digestible carbohydrates, plus all the added vitamins and minerals your dog needs for complete health. Simple ingredients make for whole-body health.
Available in 4 – 24 lb. (1.81 – 10.89kg) packages.
Wild Earth is a small dog food company that focuses on making the best, most well-balanced dog food available. This is a meat-free blend, made with a variety of complete plant proteins, with yeast as the star ingredient. This amazing blend also includes antioxidants, prebiotics, and all the added nutritional supplements your dog needs for healthy skin.
Available in 4 – 18 lb. (1.81 – 8.16 kg) packages.
If your pup seems to be losing more fur than you think is normal, it’s important to consider what’s normal for their breed, what’s going on in their lives, and possible health conditions.
But the food you feed your dog is important too, and feeding your dog cheap food with low-quality ingredients can definitely cause excess shedding. If you think this might be a factor, changing to a better food with no fillers and ingredients like high-quality protein and omega fatty acids may help.
- Pet Central: Dogs That Shed Heavily
- TopDogHealth: Is Your Dog Shedding Like Crazy? Here’s What to Do
- PetMed: Why Do Dogs Shed?
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