Siberian Huskies have become popular dogs in Ireland in recent years: there’s something about their wolf-like appearance that appeals to people. They can be a challenging breed: they are strong-willed, with loads of energy, and they don’t always fit in well with a typical modern Irish household. Adam had done his research before getting Zola. He makes sure that he takes her for two hour-long walks every day, and this is enough to wear her out.
The long, dense coat of a Husky can be another challenge: it’s designed for Arctic winters, not Irish summers, and in warm weather, it can provide a bit too much insulation for a dog’s comfort. Adam has adapted Zola’s routine to make sure that she never over-heats: he takes her for walks early in the morning and late in the evening, and he makes sure that she always has somewhere cool to relax. If she is in the house, he’ll often find her stretched out on the tiled floor in the kitchen. And if she’s outside, she has a favourite corner in a shady, concrete-lined laneway at the side of the house. She always has fresh water nearby, and on the hottest days, Adam has given her a special treat: ice cubes: she likes crunching these up.
Until recently, Zola had a dog’s traditional twice yearly coat-moulting pattern: losing her winter coat in the late spring, growing a lighter, summer coat. Then in the autumn, her summer coat fell out, being replaced by a thick, insulating winter coat. This year, her moulting pattern has changed: she lost her winter coat in spring, but for no particular reason, at the start of July, she began to lose her summer coat. It’s far too early for her autumn moult, so Adam brought her to see me to find out why she was shedding so much.
When I examined her, I could find nothing wrong: she has a healthy, shiny coat, thanks to the high quality dried food kibble that Adam has been feeding her. Sometimes when dogs are fed poor quality, cheap dog food, they end up having a dry, dull coat that tends to be more easily shed. This is definitely not an issue for Zola.
So why is she suddenly shedding so much fur? If you run your hand along her back, you can collect handfuls of loose fur. Adam has wooden floors at home, so at least he doesn’t have carpets to get clogged up with fur, but he does notice clumps of loose fur gathering on the floor around the furniture, like tumbleweed in a desert. And he knows if Zola has ever been on the furniture: she leaves a furry body print.
Excessive shedding is a common problem in Irish dogs. The natural twice yearly moult is controlled by many factors, including daylength and environmental temperature. When dogs live indoors, they are exposed to artificial light that fools their body into believing that it’s permanently summer. And the ambient temperature is changed by central heating so that they are able to avoid experiencing the reality of winter. There are other factors too, but the net result is that many dogs lose their traditional moulting pattern, and they end up shedding fur continually for most of the year.
What can Adam do about all the dog hair? The best answer is to maximise the removal of loose hair in places that don’t matter, such as the back garden or the local park. He should encourage Zola to remove as much fur as possible naturally, by running through undergrowth and rolling in meadows. He could also wash her regularly (e.g. once a week), towel drying her afterwards, rubbing well so that as much hair as possible is removed with the towelling. And finally, he should give her a thorough daily brush-down to remove the loose fur.
- Excessive shedding is a common problem in pet dogs
- A high quality diet is important but doesn’t stop moulting
- Regular brushing to remove the loose fur is the only answer