Dog hair everywhere! Except on my dog :-(
August 10, 2012 1:36 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday, I picked up my 18-month-old pit bull-type mix Chance after three weeks of boarding. His coat is in bad shape in he is shedding unimaginable amounts of hair. What's the best approach to get him healthy again?

Unfortunately, we couldn't find a friend to petsit for our long-ago planned wedding and honeymoon trip, so we had our dog boarded at the best-reviewed kennel in the region for the duration of our trip. I'm certain that they took great care of him – they took more interest in him than any of the other kennels we visited before the trip, he got loads of playtime, exercise and individual attention while there and seemed overall happy.

Here's the problem: his coat is very dry, he has dandruff, and he is shedding like crazy. I can see his pink skin underneath his coat in some areas. I brushed him with a rubber Zoom Groom for half an hour last night and almost an hour today, and tons of hair came off, as in enough to stuff a pillow. The kennel also bathed and groomed him just before I got him back, and showed me the mountain of hair that came off him with a Furminator-type blade.

Bathing: Normally, he doesn't have a dog odor so I bathed him as needed when he managed to get into mucky ponds, for example – about every 2-3 weeks – with shampoo for sensitive skin that left his coat soft and incredibly good-looking. He smells a bit like dog kennel now despite getting a bath a couple of days ago and I wish I could bathe him, but won't if it will make his skin even worse.

Nutrition: I fed him mostly raw food (meaty bones and blended herbs and vegetables) with occasional grain-free kibble before. His coat was great and shedding was easily to control with a bit of brushing every other day. I switched him to Orijen Regional Red, which is supposed to be one of the best foods on the market, a couple of days before going away. While boarded, he got kibble, a frozen raw chicken drumstick and treats every day. I started supplementing with fish oil today. Should I stick with Orijen or right away revert to his raw meaty bones diet? A mix of both? I have tons of the dry food left, and it wasn't exactly cheap. He likes it a lot, too, and it is much more convenient for training than raw meat for obvious reasons.

Skin: I took him for a check-up just after adopting him, and his vet said that he has very sensitive skin, so he eats a grain-free diet and has a prescription spray for the occasional rashes he gets. The kennel gave him antihistamines a few times when they noticed irritated areas. He is happier than usual when he gets brushed, so I suspect his skin is itchy as well, but he doesn't scratch himself much. His lips seem dryer than usual. Do I need to take him to his vet, or is that an issue that can be resolved through nutrition and just the fact that he is back home, getting all the love and attention he thrives on?

Weather: He had about a week of heavier shedding when the weather in Seattle got warmer in June, but nothing even close to this. It's been hot here the last couple of weeks, and the kennel owner said that many of the dogs are shedding heavily despite cooling indoors. However, she seemed a bit surprised by the amount of hair coming off of Chance.

Stress: The kennel owner said that it was common for dogs to lose hair while boarded (I lost a ton of my hair when I moved to a different country for a while last year, so much that I had to see a dermatologist!). In addition to the anxiety of being away from home, he may have found the presence of other dogs nearby quite stressful since he is a very reactive dog with poor impulse control (we're just getting started with training). I realize stress is likely contributing to the hair loss, but could it also account for the severe dryness and dandruff?

Behavior: Chance is happy, elated to be back home with us (lots of face licking) and gets decent amounts of exercise. He eats and drinks water normally, responds to commands and plays well – so hopefully there is no underlying health problem.

He's my first dog and I've only had him for since May, so please forgive me for how long and anxiety-ridden this question is. Any advice is much appreciated!
posted by halogen to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Aww, what a cutie! Since he's acting and generally behaving normally, I'd wait until after a few days or even a week of his regular home routine and see if he's getting back to normal.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:50 PM on August 10, 2012

Best answer: Your little guy has had a crazy few months! New family, boarded for three weeks, food've got to give him a little time to be a basket case.

Some dogs just shed hard when they're stressed out (both of mine, for instance). My dogs definitely also get dandruff when they're stressed. If he's still shedding hair like crazy in a week I'd say take him to the vet, but I don't think you have anything to fret about urgently right now. This is very normal.

I would not switch him away from this food right now. Certainly not all at once. If you think he was doing a lot better on raw food, make the change gradually, over the course of a couple of weeks where you phase out the kibble gradually. But I wouldn't say you need to do that straight off.
posted by town of cats at 1:53 PM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: It's just stress. Pour fish oil or olive oil on his food at every meal and his coat will come back and the dandruff will resolve.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:56 PM on August 10, 2012

Best answer: What town of cats said. He's been through a hell of a lot! Give him stability and routine and a chance to get on an even keel.
posted by trip and a half at 1:57 PM on August 10, 2012

Best answer: My dog shed and threw out dandruff like crazy when she was stressed, too. It's normal. I wouldn't switch the food right away, because he's still recovering from being stressed. Maybe start mixing in his normal diet once the dry food starts running low.
posted by winna at 1:58 PM on August 10, 2012

Best answer: I'd add some oil to his diet just to help, dogs need more fat in their diet than humans do. Safflower oil is good just pour a tablespoon or two on his dinner, or olive oil. Eggs also have a lot of good fats in them, especially if you can get free range and dogs will just eat them up raw, or you can cook them if you like. Fish oil or flax seed oil is also good.

I am not a vet, but it is most likely stress, dogs (and cats) stress moult, a bit like humans loosing their hair when stressed. A good diet and time should fix it.

It may also be a seasonal moult, most dogs I've owned have gone through a seasonal moult every six months or so as the days get shorter or longer, getting in summer and winter coats and they can look a bit ratty for a week or so.
posted by wwax at 2:06 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This may sound ridiculous, but have you tried adding liquid fish oil to his food? One of my kitties had horrible dandruff and dry skin when I first got him and the addition of fish oil to his diet cleared it up almost immediately. I just gave him the brand I use, orange flavor and all. He didn't mind and it was cheaper than the type they make specifically for pets (and isn't full of crap fillers like you get in the capsules).
posted by schroedinger at 2:33 PM on August 10, 2012

Best answer: Nthing stress. After a period of stability, he should get right back to normal. The dandruff/shedding will work itself out over time. You might also consider adding raw egg to his diet, as it does good things for the coat.

I mostly typed all that out so I had a reason to say OMG THAT IS ONE CUTE LITTLE DOGGIE. Yes he is! Oh yes he is a cute little doggi! *devolves into baby talk*
posted by mudpuppie at 5:44 PM on August 10, 2012

Best answer: Awwww!! So freaking cute!

Definitely stress. My parents' dog, a golden retriever, hates their annual sojourn to Florida in the winter. Over time his coat gets nasty, he develops hotspots, he stinks, his normally odorless mouth smells like low tide, etc. Two weeks back home and he's like new. So give him some time and don't wash him too much--it will dry out his skin and exacerbate the condition. I'd give him at least 3 weeks off from being wet, maybe four.
posted by xyzzy at 7:36 PM on August 10, 2012

Best answer: Also since his skin is more exposed than usual make sure he doesn't get sunburned.
posted by bq at 7:59 PM on August 10, 2012

Best answer: What a sweet dog! Congrats on having such a lovely pet. I am going to chime in with anecdotal evidence as well and let you know that when my lovely rottie girl goes through periods of stress, she looses hair like mad! A thunderstorm, an extended period at home alone - things such as these will cause her to shed more than average (honestly, she releases plumes of hair in a relatively short period of time!). She also has skin problems naturally, so we feed/treat her accordingly, as it appears you are already doing. You sound like you are a very caring and loving owner, and these concerns are natural, as you have only had your pup for a short period of time. You are doing great! Just keep on doing what you are doing, and you will will have pooch back to normal in no time. If it were me, I would continue feeding your pup the food you know is good for him, and in no time, he should be back to normal.
Summarizing, stress appears to be a major source of hair loss/skin problems, and if you just keep doing what you are doing, he should be back to normal in no time.

Keep us updated! Dog folk on askmefi are a devoted lot, and we are always eager to hear how our doggies are doing.

Additionally, I have been hearing good things about doggie vacay, and if you do have to leave your dog alone in the future, boarding may not always be the best option for every dog. Getting someone to come to your house and care for your dog in their home environment may be a better option, and could perhaps be even less expensive than high-end boarding facilities.
posted by msali at 10:13 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Starting my dog on salmon oil was one of the best decisions I've ever made as a pet owner.
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:50 AM on August 11, 2012

Response by poster: After less than a couple of weeks of following Chance around with a vacuum cleaner, he has his soft, shiny, silky coat back (and the shedding is mostly under control)! His coat is, however, notably shorter than it previously was, and his fine white wavy undercoat is pretty much gone now. What I thought were bald spots were just darker spots on his skins – patterns that were previously covered up by his longer and fluffier fur.

I've been feeding him his kibble, supplemented with salmon oil, free-range eggs and raw meaty bones (chicken and beef). I've been brushing him with the rubber brush for about an hour every day, and for at least a week the amount of hair coming out was completely ridiculous (for instance, here is the result of him being happy and wagging his tail), but now everything is back to normal.

Thanks for the recommendations and reassurance! Here are two photos of him being utterly unhelpful and hogging the pillows while I was changing the sheets in our bedroom.

I'm not looking forward to this happening twice a year but I suppose it's the price of love.
posted by halogen at 5:15 PM on August 22, 2012

Response by poster: This is the first image I meant to link to.
posted by halogen at 7:25 PM on August 22, 2012

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