That plush puppy coat is one of our favorite things about puppies, but unfortunately, it doesn’t stick around forever. Why do puppies shed their coats, and is there anything you can do to make the softness last a little longer?
Let’s learn the secrets behind that oh-so-cuddly coat and find out what to do about that pesky shedding!
The Puppy Shedding Primer: Facts, Tips and Tricks
What Is a Puppy Coat?
If you’ve ever held a puppy, you know that, size aside, they just feel different than adult dogs. And that’s largely due to their puppy coat.
The term “puppy coat” refers to the fur that puppies are born with. It’s a single coat of fur that’s much fluffier and softer than adult coats, which tend to be stiffer and coarser.
Puppy coats are intended to help the puppies regulate their body temperature during their earliest, most vulnerable days. Since they’re so small, they need a little extra help to stay warm, and the puppy coat acts like a warm down jacket.
Why Do Puppy Coats Look Different from Adult Coats?
But texture isn’t the only thing that’s different with puppy coats. The color and pattern of a puppy coat can be drastically different from the adult coat that grows in later.
Dalmations are perhaps the best example of this. When they’re born, they’re entirely white, lacking the signature black spots that make the breed so distinctive.
But before long, the puppies outgrow their puppy coats, and a remarkable change takes place. Their adult patterns begin to emerge, covering each puppy in his own unique set of black spots.
Shih Tzus are also notorious for changing colors after losing their puppy coats. A black Shih Tzu puppy could end up being a gold adult, and a white puppy could grow an orange adult coat.
Genetics are responsible for these drastic changes, but it’s not known why dogs evolved them to begin with.
Perhaps some puppy coats are colored such that they blend in with the environment the breed originated in. Or maybe it’s just an accidental mutation caused by generations of selective breeding by humans.
Whatever the cause, those colorful puppy coats will eventually be shed and replaced. Which brings us to our next point…
When Do Puppies Shed Their Puppy Coats?
There’s no definitive timeline for puppy coat shedding, you can make a pretty good guess. In general, puppies shed their puppy coats at around 5 months of age, and the timing usually aligns with the changing of seasons.
Several factors come into play when puppies shed. Shedding usually doesn’t occur until the puppy has reached a size where it can properly regulate its own body temperature.
Light also plays a role here: as light exposure increases, the likelihood of shedding does too. Since strong light usually means warmer temperatures, this makes sense — the puppy no longer needs that fluffy coat to stay warm.
And finally, breed plays a big role in puppy coat shedding. Pomeranians, for example, are known to keep their puppy coats for a year or even longer, while many larger breeds start shedding at just 12 weeks of age.
Puppy coat shedding could take just a few days or several months. During the shedding process, the puppy will look quite scraggly and awkward.
In other words, the loss of the puppy coat signifies the beginning of teenagehood. We can all relate to feeling a little disheveled during that life stage!
Do Non-Shedding Breeds Still Shed Their Puppy Coats?
Some breeds, like poodles and Yorkies, are commonly touted as non-shedding or hypoallergenic dogs. But the term “non-shedding” only really applies to adult dogs — puppies are a different story.
Regardless of breed, all puppies shed their puppy coats at some point. It’s just a part of growing up, and even if a dog never sheds again, his puppy coat won’t last forever.
Non-shedding breeds tend to take longer to lose their puppy coats, and they usually shed less when they do. But when you’re raising a puppy, it’s inevitable that you’ll be cleaning up puppy coat remnants at some point.
How Do I Care for My Shedding Puppy?
Shedding can be an uncomfortable experience for your puppy. After all, he’s had his puppy coat since he was born, so it’s got to be pretty confusing when it starts falling out!
And his adult coat is probably much stiffer and pokier than his fluffy puppy coat. Dogs can have as many as 20 hair follicles in one pore, and when all of them start poking out at once, it can be quite painful!
You can make this rough time easier for your puppy by grooming and bathing your dog while he’s shedding. Use a soft brush rather than one with stiff wires or bristles to soothe, rather than irritate, his skin.
Brush your puppy in the direction of hair growth and remove the loose hairs from the brush regularly. Daily brushing will acclimate your puppy to grooming, alleviate his discomfort and prevent your home from being covered by his puppy coat.
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When Should I Be Worried About Puppy Shedding?
It’s totally normal for your puppy to shed his coat, but there are also cases where shedding can indicate a medical problem.
If your puppy has large bald patches, skin inflammation or scaly skin, something’s not right. This type of hair loss is not normal and may be caused by parasites, infection, poor nutrition or chronic disease.
Don’t panic if you see your puppy scratching as he sheds his puppy coat. The new adult coat can itch as it comes in, so intermittent scratching is perfectly normal.
But if your puppy is scratching excessively to the point that his skin is raw or bloody, there’s more than mere shedding going on. He may be dealing with fleas, suffering from dry skin, or scratching as a way to cope with anxiety.
If your puppy’s shedding is accompanied by any of these symptoms, see a vet for diagnosis and treatment. These problems won’t just go away when his adult coat grows in, and if they’re not treated, they could cause serious problems down the road.
"If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then give him only two."
-- Phil Pastoret