Consistent shedding is typical of breeds with a double coat like the German Shepherd. What might seem unusual is the massive seasonal shedding, also known as “blowing the coat,” which happens at odd times of the year, one of these being fall. If you weren’t aware of this additional shedding, you might be wondering why you have so much fur flying around!
So, why is my German Shepherd shedding in the fall? German Shepherds shed in the fall in preparation for the cold winter season. Following fall shedding, most of their summer overcoat and part of their undercoat is replaced by a thicker and warmer winter coat that serves as insulation against the cold.
Don’t worry though as I’ll tell you what to do about your German Shepherd’s fall shedding a little later in the article.
But first, this post will explore in greater detail the shedding issue among German Shepherds so that you will know when it is a normal part of your pet’s life and you’ll also be able to recognize when the shedding may be due to other causes such as a poor diet or health issues.
To learn why German Shepherd’s in the fall, read on!
- Normal Shedding Among German Shepherds: A Breed and Seasonal Issue
- Abnormal Shedding Among German Shepherds: Signs and Causes
- Cushing’s Disease
- Poor Diet
- Underdevelopment of Hair Follicles
- Behavioral Problems
- German Shepherd Fall Shedding: What You Should Do
- Good Hair Grooming
- Hair Brushing and Deshedding
- Hertzko Self Cleaning Slicker Brush
- FURminator Undercoat Deshedding Tool
- Regular Baths With Dog Shampoo
- Feed Your German Shepherd With High-Quality Food
- Control Parasites (Ticks, Lice, Fleas)
- Other Measures
- German Shepherd Fall Shedding: What You Should Not Do!
- Final Thoughts
Normal Shedding Among German Shepherds: A Breed and Seasonal Issue
Like other double coat breeds, it is normal for German Shepherds to shed a bit of their fur all year long. This natural process has three key functions:
- Regulate your dog’s body temperature.
- Protect his skin from injury and disease.
- Aid in sensory perception.
To perform these functions, the German Shepherd’s double coat should not be shaved. We shall explore this later.
From a seasonal shedding perspective, it is normal for the German Shepherd Dog (GSD) to blow most of the thinner and longer hairs of the overcoat and a bit of the soft and woolly undercoat in fall to make way for a woolier winter coat.
Spring and summer shedding is also within the norm among German Shepherds. This time, America’s 2nd most popular breed sheds most of its undercoat and part of its overcoat to better cope with the summer heat.
But not all shedding is normal. Some hair loss patterns are indicative of health issues that should be attended to by a vet in most cases.
Abnormal Shedding Among German Shepherds: Signs and Causes
If you have observed your German Shepherd and somewhat mastered his normal shedding pattern, you will surely notice when something is abnormal. Dog experts will differentiate shedding, which is a regular rhythm of hair growth from fur loss, which is caused by health, nutritional, and environmental factors.
Irregular shedding will manifest in the following signs:
- Fur loss
- Dry and brittle fur
- Skin allergies
- Skin irritation (manifest in continuous scratching and rubbing)
- Open sores, blisters, and bald patches
- Reactions to touch such as jerking
So, what causes these anomalies? There are several causes of atypical fur loss among German Shepherds. Here are a few of the most common ones.
Cushing’s disease, commonly known as pituitary-dependent hypercortisolism is caused by a benign tumor in the pituitary. This prompts excessive production of the stress hormone, cortisol, which causes hair loss in dogs. According to WSU College of Veterinary Medicine, 100,000 dogs are diagnosed with the disease each year, with dogs older than six years being at greater risk.
Though not a common disease among dogs and German Shepherds are not among the three most prone breeds, hypothyroidism causes some hair and skin issues, including increased shedding, hair loss and thinning, and thickened skin.
This happens when your dog is losing more water than he is taking in. The situation compromises healthy blood flow and the delivery of oxygen to tissues and organs, including the skin. The resulting loss of skin elasticity does not support healthy hair, which makes them fall off easily.
Adult German Shepherds should drink 1oz (29.5ml) of water per 1lb (0.5kg) of body weight daily.
A good way to keep your German Shepherd hydrated is to give him ice cubes or refreshing frozen strawberries. You can also get a dog water fountain such as the Petsafe Drinkwell (from Amazon) that encourages him to drink. I like this one as it’s especially for large breeds and you can adjust the water flow to suit your dog.
A healthy balanced diet provides a consistent supply of essential nutrients. Your German Shepherd’s hair needs this nutrient supply to stay firmly in the hair follicles. As such, a poor diet lacks these nutrients and will cause hair loss.
Underdevelopment of Hair Follicles
This can be congenital (present at birth) even though not necessarily hereditary. The hair follicles fail to develop as they should, causing patchy or general hair loss.
Ticks, lice, and fleas all cause your dog’s skin to itch, and as a reaction, your dog bites or scratches. This breaks the pet’s hair, and the chewed skin can become prone to skin infections.
High levels of stress and anxiety can cause your dog to chew its hair and skin, leaving patches. This condition is also described as Acral Lick Dermatitis. Possible psychological factors include the dog being left alone all day and suffering from separation anxiety or left too long in a crate. It can also be caused by parasites and other allergic conditions.
Other possible causes of hair loss include skin trauma that may result from extreme incidences such as burns, bacterial and fungal infections, food and other allergies, some pet medications like steroids, inflammatory disease, harsh grooming products, and intoxication from substances such as mercury, iodine, and thallium among others.
Temporary fur loss can also happen during pregnancy, lactation, or during a convalescence period. Whatever the cause of abnormal hair loss, it is important that an accurate diagnosis is made by your dog’s vet for proper treatment.
Concerning solutions for hair loss, most remedies and preventive measures for abnormal hair loss are similar to those for controlling excessive seasonal shedding. Read about these measures in the next section.
German Shepherd Fall Shedding: What You Should Do
Having established that excessive shedding is normal in fall for German Shepherds, the measures proposed here are more of management approaches rather than definitive solutions.
The point is that, whatever you do, your dog will shed a great deal in fall. But taking these measures will give solace to your dog’s skin, maintain a vibrant coat, and save your couch and floor from excess hair!
Good Hair Grooming
Good fur grooming is your best bet for dealing with fall shedding among German Shepherds. How you do it might, however, depend on your dog’s coat type.
German Shepherds are categorized according to their outer coat as medium-length (normal) or long-haired. Whereas some kennel clubs will register both varieties, others like the AKC only register the medium-length GSD.
The Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) recognizes both varieties with the classic variety described as the double coat German Shepherd and the longer hair variety as having a long and harsh outer coat.
This variation in hair length also means a difference in hair grooming, especially when it comes to brushing. Two key aspects of hair grooming during the heavy shedding seasons of fall and spring are important: hair brushing and deshedding and regular bathing.
Hair Brushing and Deshedding
Normally, two or three times a week is enough to brush your German Shepherd. However, during the heavy shedding season, brushing should be done daily. This helps to remove the dead hair and stimulate your GSD’s hair follicles so that natural hair growth and a vibrant coat are maintained.
For a thorough brushing, brush the coat against the direction of hair growth first, and then along the hair growth direction to completely remove dead hair. Be aware though that some dogs don’t like to be brushed against the direction of their fur.
Deshedding your German Shepherd should be done 2-3 times per week as it removes loose hair from the undercoat before it falls and gets scattered all over your home.
Two key hair grooming tools will be necessary for both brushing and deshedding: a slicker brush to detangle any knots or mats, and a deshedding undercoat brush to rid your Shepherd’s coat of loose hair and undercoat.
Here’s a quick review of both of these grooming tools from amazon:
This slicker brush is perfect for a double coat breed like the German Shepherd since it untangles mats and knots and penetrates the undercoat to remove loose fur without hurting your dog’s skin. (It is a must-have tool for the rarer long-haired German Shepherd).
The brush has a non-slip handle and a self-clean button that retracts the bristles, so the removed fur easily falls off, and your brush is ready for the next grooming session.
This deshedding tool is specifically designed for large, heavy shedders like the German Shepherd. During the heavy shedding season, it will safely get rid of loose fur without ruining the overcoat or your German Shepherd’s skin. You can choose either a long hair tool or a short hair one.
The tool has a fur ejector button that you press to magically release the fur and the handle is ergonomic for easy grooming and comfortable handling. I use the FURminator on my German Shepherd as you can see in the above photo. I have tried other expensive tools but I like this the best as it’s easy to use and really does the job.
If you like this particular brand, they also have a grooming rake which is ideal for thick fur or dense double coats. Here’s my pick of the best three grooming tools for German Shepherds.
Check out this cool 5-minute video from “All About Shepherds” showing a GSD being deshedded with a FURminator. It’s crazy to see how much hair this tool removes and how much easier it makes the job!
Regular Baths With Dog Shampoo
An occasional bath once in a while is good enough for the German Shepherd in ordinary shedding seasons as they are naturally clean and tend to be odor-free.
Some will suggest a couple of extra baths in the heavy shedding season such as fall, to help reduce hair loss. Bathing your GSD rids its coat of dead hair and gives a feeling of relaxation for the dog, especially in the warmer seasons.
You might want to seek precise guidelines from your German Shepherd’s vet on how regularly you should bathe your GSD during the heavy shedding seasons. What is most important to remember, though, is that too many baths will rid your dog’s skin of its natural oil and compromise its insulation function. The consensus is 3-4 times per year.
Always use a dog shampoo for your GSD’s bath. Naturally-derived formulas with a conditioner like the Natural Oatmeal Dog-Shampoo & Conditioner from Amazon are best. Unlike synthetic ones, these shampoos are gentle on your dog’s skin and are safe even for dogs with sensitive skin.
Feed Your German Shepherd With High-Quality Food
Your German Shepherd naturally sheds plenty in fall. But if your dog is not fed with a healthy diet, shedding is increased. To keep fall and year-long shedding in the normal, always feed your GSD with high-quality food. This implies the right amounts of protein, fats, carbohydrates and fiber, vitamins, minerals, and of course, water.
According to the AKC, good dog food contains meat, grains, vegetables, and fruits. These are not just nourishing, but they are also suitable for your dog’s digestive system. You can also check out my article on the best diet for German Shepherds which has loads more info on nutrition, types of diet, and exactly what your GSD can and can’t eat.
As large-sized working dogs, German Shepherds require a high-quality protein-rich diet. My German Shepherd has been fed on Guru Cold-Pressed Dog Food from being an 8-week old pup and she still thrives on it to this day. She likes the signature Surf & Turf variety which contains a whopping 37% protein (beef and sea fish).
If you are wondering what Cold-Pressed dog food is, it’s a relatively new way of cooking dog food. It’s gently made at low temperatures which means the food retains all its nutrients, unlike regular extruded kibble which is steamed at high temperatures. This leaves the extruded kibble with a loss of vitamins and a reduction of protein quality as detailed in this study.
Unfortunately, this food is only currently available in the UK and Europe. It is the only dog food I personally recommend on this site and if you are looking for more information, you can find my in-depth review on my Recommended Gear page.
However, don’t worry if you can’t yet source Guru as I’ve done some research and the below two products from Amazon look a great alternative protein-rich food for German Shepherds. Both are highly rated with good reviews:
- Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition German Shepherd Adult Dry Dog Food prepared with Brewers rice and chicken, among other ingredients. It contains 22% protein, which is more than AAFCO’s 18% minimum recommendation for an adult dog. The product has EPA and DHA from fish oil, essential for promoting healthy skin.
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Adult Large Breed Dry Dog Food contains 34% crude protein, healthy carbohydrates from sweet potatoes and peas for energy supply, and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to promote skin and coat health.
To find out more whether German Shepherds should eat grain-free, this post explains it really well.
A healthy diet for your German Shepherd also means avoiding foods that may cause allergies or intolerances, such as those containing soy, gluten, additives, or preservatives, although the most common food allergen in dogs is the protein source!
Food allergies are among the main causes of poor skin health and hair loss. It’s good to know, though, that there are specially prepared hydrolyzed protein diets available that can be prescribed by your vet, such as this Blue Buffalo one.
Control Parasites (Ticks, Lice, Fleas)
The presence of ticks, lice, and fleas on your dog’s coat will cause itching and scratching and, consequently, increase shedding. Regular treatment for these parasites, preferably every three months, is crucial for your German Shepherd. This serves as a preventative measure and will also get rid of any parasites already on your dog’s coat.
It’s easy to get rid of these parasites with a simple remover when there are just a couple imported from an encounter with infested pets or places. But once they begin producing eggs on your German Shepherd’s coat, it becomes more difficult to eliminate them. You will need proper skin products and oral medications to get rid of them. Always follow your GSD vet’s instructions.
There are many anti-flea/tick/lice products in the market, including shampoos. For example, Amazon’s Adams Plus Flea & Tick kills ticks, fleas, and lice as well as their eggs or larvae.
It is a sensitive skin formula with lanolin, oatmeal, a coconut extract, and soothing aloe. These ingredients make it a perfect choice for GSDs with bite marks or inflammation spots. It also has an insect growth regulator, preventing the parasites from returning for 28 days.
Apart from the three measures discussed, there are a couple of others that you could consider:
- Talk to your vet about supplementing your GSD’s diet if you suspect that your dog lacks any nutritional compound as a result of health or other reasons.
- Add flaxseed or olive oil to your dog’s food to provide omega-3 fatty acids. These are crucial for a healthy, shiny coat and control skin inflammation. Alternatively, include dog-safe fish types in your GSD’s diet.
Now that you know what to do to control your German Shepherd’s fall shedding, I’ll tell you one important thing that you should not do!
German Shepherd Fall Shedding: What You Should Not Do!
There is a primary reason the German Shepherd has a double coat. I mentioned that reason earlier by indicating that it serves as insulation both in the cold and warmer seasons. For this reason, getting rid of the natural length of your GSD’s coat is not advisable.
Simply put, you should not shave your German Shepherd’s fur.
Here are four other reasons why you should not shave your German Shepherd’s fur:
- Shaving, even in humans, causes some form of irritation. For your dog, this could mean consistent scratching or skin irritation and, therefore, extra shedding.
- As your dog sheds fur, new hairs grow in the same follicles. This is a natural cycle for your dog’s coat. Shaving disrupts this sequence and may cause your dog to shed more out of season. Besides, the overcoat may take as long as two years to grow back.
- Shaving your German Shepherd exposes him/her to extreme cold in winter and extreme heat in summer, which could cause sunburn and the resulting weakened hair follicles.
- Your dog will not shed less if you shave his/her fur; they will just shed shorter fur. This means that shaving is only a temporary, or better, a half-done anti-shedding measure.
If you’re obliged to shave your dog for health, sporting, or age-related reasons, ensure to always take precautions such as the use of sunscreen or special clothing.
Excessive shedding in fall is a normal occurrence in German Shepherds. It makes room for a warmer coat, necessary for braving the extreme winter temperatures.
Abnormal fur loss can be caused by poor diet, health conditions such as Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism, stress and anxiety, or the infestation of fleas, lice, and ticks.
To control your dog’s shedding in fall and spring, ensure proper daily grooming with the right tools, feed your dog with a healthy high-quality diet, and get rid of the parasites.
Unless there are valid health, sporting, or age-related reasons, you should not shave your GSD’s hair. This will disrupt its natural rhythm and compromise its insulation function. Besides, shaving does not stop or reduce fall’s natural shedding among German Shepherds.
Related Posts You May Like:
- AKC: The Most Popular Dog Breeds of 2019
- PetCareRx: Excessive Dog Shedding: When You Should Worry
- WSU College of Veterinary Medicine: Cushing’s Disease
- WSU College of Veterinary Medicine: Hypothyroidism in Dogs
- Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice: Diagnosis and Treatment of Canine Acral Lick Dermatitis
- CVETS: What Causes Hair Loss in Cats and Dogs?
- Federation Cynologique Internationale: DEUTSCHER SCHÄFERHUND (German Shepherd Dog)
- AKC: How to Choose the Best Dog Food
- Researchgate: Effects of Extrusion Processing on Nutrients in Dry Pet Food
- (AAFCO): Methods for Substantiating Nutritional Adequacy of Dog and Cat Foods
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