Understanding Shedding Season for Cats and Dogs

Published by
min read

Find food that fits your pet’s needs

Find a dog food that fits your pet’s needs

Find a cat food that fits your pet’s needs

Your pet adds comfort, character and joy to your home — and they also add hair. It's a small price to pay for unconditional love, but shedding can be frustrating to deal with. Here's what you should know about shedding season for dogs and cats, how to recognize when shedding is a bigger concern and how to minimize excess pet hair in your home so you can focus on the good stuff.

Why Do Dogs and Cats Shed?

Shedding is an important aspect of skin and hair health for dogs and cats. Pets shed to remove dead and damaged hair, regulate their body temperature and release natural oils in the skin. All pets shed to some extent, but genetics determine coat type, hair length, growth cycle and shedding amount.

Cat sitting on window

When Do Dogs and Cats Shed?

Shedding is a normal part of your pet's hair growth cycle, and it happens year-round. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) explains that this cycle traditionally includes three phases:

  • Anagen: An active growth phase where hair grows to its genetically determined length.
  • Catagen: A transitional phase between anagen and telogen where hair ceases growth.
  • Telogen: A resting phase where hair remains in the follicle until it falls out.

Some veterinary dermatologists add a fourth phase, exogen, to describe the active shedding phase.

How long each of these phases lasts depends on several factors, including time of year, overall health and breed (genetics). For example, the AAHA explains that poodles and shih tzus can remain in the anagen phase for several years, growing long hair that requires trimming. Other breeds have a short anagen phase followed by a long telogen phase.

Seasonal Shedding

Most dogs and cats shed continuously throughout the year. However, seasonal shedding refers to periods of heavier or more frequent shedding due to changing weather and light patterns, and it primarily affects pets with longer hair or thicker coats. Seasonal shedding typically peaks in the spring and fall. Spring shedding thins out your pet's coat in preparation for warmer weather, while fall shedding makes room for them to grow a heavier winter coat.

Seasonal dog shedding is usually heaviest in the spring, particularly in dogs with double coats such as Siberian huskies, German shepherds and Labrador retrievers. Some veterinarians refer to these periods of heavy shedding as "coat blows." Your pet "blows their coat" when their undercoat comes out in large clumps in preparation for summer. You may also observe heavy seasonal shedding in cats with denser coats, including Russian blues, Maine Coons and Ragdolls.

Since shedding season is prompted by light and temperature changes, the amount of time your pet spends indoors with artificial lighting and in temperature-controlled environments can affect when and how much they shed.

Abnormal Shedding

Heavier periods of shedding unrelated to seasonal shedding can indicate an underlying health concern or condition. The AAHA lists the following possible causes:

If you notice your pet is inexplicably shedding more — particularly if it's paired with bald patches, excessive scratching or any other abnormal behaviors — make an appointment with your vet.

How Can You Manage Shedding Season for Cats and Dogs?

Shedding is natural and healthy, and there's nothing you can do to stop it. However, you can take steps to prevent pet hair from building up in your home.

Groom Your Pets

Regular grooming, including bathing and brushing, is the best way to keep shedding under control and help remove dead hair. For seasonal dog shedding, use a brush or comb made specifically for stripping dead hair from your pup's undercoat. If you have a cat, use a brush designed for cats (rather than a generic pet brush) to more effectively capture dead and damaged hair. While you're at it, this is the perfect opportunity to examine your pet's skin and hair for any changes.

Provide Balanced Nutrition

Feed your dog or cat a complete and balanced food that's appropriate for their life stage. Some foods are even formulated to promote healthy skin and hair. When in doubt, ask your vet for their recommendation based on your pet's unique needs.

Try Fabric Conditioner Designed for Pet Parents

Regular laundry detergent doesn't always do the trick for pet-lover homes. Consider adding a fabric conditioner designed to repel pet hair to your usual laundry routine to fight fur and help keep your clothes, home and bedding fresh.

Vacuum and Sweep Regularly

Vacuum furniture, rugs and carpets at least once a week, or cover chairs and sofas with machine-washable slipcovers or throws. If you have more than one furry pet, you might want to consider investing in a vacuum cleaner designed especially for tackling pet hair.

Sweep hardwood floors with a microfiber sweeper that uses static electricity to attract and trap hair and dander, or use a broom made for sweeping up pet hair.

Sleeping elderly dog

Rotate Pet Bedding and Blankets

Pet bedding — including removable, machine-washable pet bed covers and designated pet blankets — can quickly get dirty. Regularly wash and rotate these items to prevent hair buildup and odors, ideally once a week. Consider keeping a couple of sets of bedding and blankets on hand so you can launder one set while keeping the other in use.

Avoid washing these items with your regular clothing to prevent hair and odor transfer.

Use a Lint Roller or Fabric Brush

Keep lint rollers and fabric brushes handy to remove pet hair from clothing and surfaces where your vacuum can't reach.

Furry Friends for Life

As with most areas of life, knowledge is power when it comes to pet parenthood. If you have a seasonal shedder at home, you can prepare ahead of time with regular grooming to reduce the amount of hair accumulation in your home. And if you notice your cat or dog is shedding an abnormal amount outside of shedding season, you'll know to consult your vet for expert advice. At the end of the day, dealing with excess hair can be bothersome, but it's a minor annoyance compared to the love and joy your pet brings.

Contributor Bio

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet lover, freelance writer and novelist. She currently lives in the Ozarks with her husband and their gaggle of four-footed dependents, where she enjoys watching a wide array of wild animals in her back yard while drinking her morning coffee.