Dealing with a Shedding Chihuahua

Chihuahua shedding

Whether your Chihuahua is a deer head or apple head, long coat or smooth coat, he's going to shed. With the exception of certain hairless breeds like the Xoloitzcuintli or Chinese Crested, all dogs shed. It's a natural and ongoing process that's actual beneficial for our canine companions.

As an owner, though, you may have some questions about your Chihuahua's shedding.

  • Why do Chihuahuas shed?
  • How often will my Chihuahua shed?
  • Are Chihuahuas heavy shedders compared to other breeds?
  • Do long coat Chihuahua shed more than smooth coat Chihuahuas?
  • How can I manage excess fur in my home?
  • Is excessive shedding a sign of an underlying health problem?

Why Chihuahuas Shed Their Fur

Chihuahuas shed their fur so that a new, more protective coat can grow in its place.

Consisting of keratin (a protein also found in nails) and dead skin cells, fur helps to regulate the internal body temperature of dogs. Dogs are homeotherms, meaning they maintain a constant body temperature, typically around 101-102.5 degrees °F. Unlike us humans, dogs cannot sweat to cool off, so they rely on other means to regulate their temperature.

To cool off, dogs will pant, lie on cool surfaces like kitchen tile, and limit their physical activity. To stay warm, they'll lower their metabolic rate, sit in front of a sunny window, or burrow under a blanket (something that Chihuahuas are particularly fond of doing).

A Chihuahua's coat can also help him stay warm or cool, depending on its thickness. Chihuahuas typically have a thicker coat in the fall and winter months and a thinner coat in the spring and summer. A thick coat helps them stay warm by preventing heat from escaping their bodies, much in the same was as clothes insulate our bodies. A thin coat, on the other hand, keeps Chihuahuas cool by slowing down the process of heat absorption.

Single-Coat vs Double-Coat Chihuahuas

Chihuahuas can have either a single coat or a double coat.

  • Single-coat Chihuahuas have a single outer coat (top coat) consisting of thick guard hairs.
  • Double-coat Chihuahuas have a top coat of guard hairs and an under coat of softer, thinner hair.

The AKC's breed standards accept Chihuahuas with or without an undercoat. In regards to the coat, only a "sparse" coat is grounds for disqualification.

Long-Coat vs Smooth-Coat Chihuahuas: Which Sheds More?

Conventional wisdom should tell you that long-coat Chihuahuas shed more than smooth-smooth Chihuahuas, but this isn't necessarily true. If a smooth-coat Chihuahua has an undercoat, he will shed less than a long-coat Chihuahua without an undercoat. Most long-coat Chihuahuas have two coats, though some only have a top coat.

Furthermore, long-coat Chihuahuas often shed their hair in clumps, making it easier to clean up.

Poll: Which Type of Chihuahua Do You Think Sheds More?

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When Will My Chihuahua Shed?

Long-coat Chihuahua sheddingMost double-coated Chihuahuas shed their undercoat twice per year, once in spring and again in late fall, and their top coat gradually throughout the entire year. Single-coat Chihuahuas typically shed either once in spring or gradually throughout the entire year.

Shedding in spring allows for the development of a lighter and thinner coat, whereas shedding in fall allows for the development of a heavier and thicker coat. When a dog sheds all or most of his coat in a short period of time, it's referred to as "blowing a coat."

In addition to seasonal shedding, both single and double-coat Chihuahuas will also shed small amounts of hair year-round. This is why we don't see packs of hairless Chihuahuas roaming the street.

But not all Chihuahuas follow this cookie-cutter shedding schedule. Whether single-coated or double-coated, a Chihuahua may shed once per year, twice per year, or gradually throughout the entire year.

How Daylight Affects Shedding

It's a common assumption that seasonal temperature changes are responsible for shedding, but it's actually daylight variations that trigger this biological process.

The frequency and time of year when a Chihuahua sheds varies depending on his biological clock, known as the circadian rhythm. All animals have a circadian rhythm; it's the collection of physical, mental and behavioral changes that respond to light and darkness in the animal's environment. In addition to telling a Chihuahua when to sleep, it also tells him when to shed.

A Chihuahua's circadian rhythm, and subsequently when he sheds, is affected primarily by the amount of light in the day (photoperiod). Following the Spring Equinox, Earth's Northern Hemisphere begins to tilt closer to the sun, which results in longer days with more sunlight. In comparison, the Northern Hemisphere tilts farther from the sun in fall and winter, making the days shorter with less light.

The photoperiod variations between spring and fall regulate the amount of melatonin produced by the Chihuahua's pineal gland. Dubbed the "hormone of darkness," melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that triggers mood, reproductive cycles, body rhythms and shedding/fur growth. The nuances in seasonal daylight affect production of melatonin, telling the Chihuahua when to shed his coat and when to grow new fur.

The Shedding Cycle

Dogs, humans and many other mammals have a 3-stage cycle for growing and shedding hair.

  1. Anagen (growth phase): nutrient-rich blood from the papilla stimulates hair growth.
  2. Catagen (transition phase): growth stops as hair follicle separates from papilla.
  3. Telogen (resting phase): hair follicle is temporarily anchored in place before falling out.

After telogen, the hair follicle falls out and a new hair follicle begins growing in its place; thus, repeating the 3-stage cycle.

Here's an illustration of a Chihuahua's hair growth cycle (click to enlarge):

Common Causes of Excessive Shedding and Hair Loss

You can expect your Chihuahua to lose some of his hair through shedding. However, excessive hair loss and/or bald spots, patches of uneven fur, or brittle fur could be signs of an underlying problem.

  • Hypothyroidism: Typically occurring in middle-aged dogs, hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces an insufficient amount of thyroid hormone. Symptoms include high blood cholesterol, lethargy, excessive shedding, weight gain and anemia. If you believe your Chihuahua is suffering from hypothyroidism, ask your veterinarian to perform blood test to check his thyroid hormone levels.
  • Cushing's Disease: Characterized by a chronic overproduction of adrenal gland hormones, Cushing's Disease causes hair loss, increased appetite, increased thirst, and increased urination.
  • Heat Cycle: Due to elevated levels of the hormone estrogen, female Chihuahuas will shed more during heat. Her estrogen levels will normalize about 24-48 hours before the end of the second stage (estrus).
  • Stress: Just like stress causes our hair to fall, it can also cause a Chihuahua's hair to fall out. Common stressors include separation anxiety, punishment-based behavioral training (not recommended), moving into a new home, a death in the family, and the addition of a new family pet.
  • Food Allergies: If your Chihuahua is allergic to one or more ingredients in his food, he may shed an excessive amount of hair. This is a direct response by what your Chihuahua's immune system to what it believes to be a foreign invader. Experiment with different varieties of food until you find one that doesn't cause excess shedding or other allergic reactions.
  • Contact Allergies: Even if your Chihuahua doesn't have a food allergy, he could be allergic to other chemicals or compounds in his environment. Possible allergens include shampoo, flea medicine, antibiotics, metals such as nickel, rubber, wool, plastic, and household cleaning products. Use process of elimination to identify and remove the allergen from your home.
  • Infections: Certain fungal and bacterial infections can cause excessive shedding, including ringworm and pyoderma.
  • Fleas: Not all Chihuahuas will experience hair loss from fleas. If your Chihuahua is allergic to flea saliva (known as flea allergy dermatitis), though, he may scratch profusely until bald spots are created.
  • Mange: Caused by the parasitic mite Demodex, mange is a skin disease that causes intense itching and subsequent hair loss in dogs.

How to Control Your Chihuahua's Shedding

Chihuahua shedding on sofaChihuahuas are considered light shedders when compared to other breeds. A poll of 2,160 readers and 249 veterinary professionals conducted by VetStreet ranked the Chihuahua as the seventh lightest shedder, only behind the Poodle, Bichon Frise, Toy Poodle, Chinese Crested, Yorkshire Terrier and Maltese.

Nonetheless, Chihuahuas will shed, leaving behind piles of loose hair scattered throughout the home. It's frustrating when you discover pet hair covering your floor, furniture and clothes, but thankfully there are ways to control shedding.

Here are some tips to control your Chihuahua shedding:

  • Brush your Chihuahua. The single most effective way to control a Chihuahua's shedding is daily brushing. It removes loose hair, straightens tangled knots, and evenly distributes your Chihuahua's natural skin oils throughout his coat.
  • Choose the right type of brush. We recommend using a slicker brush on Chihuahuas with an undercoat and a bristle brush on Chihuahuas without an undercoat. There are also special de-shedding tools, such as the Furminator, that work well for all coat types.
  • Bathe your Chihuahua. While not the most enjoyable activity for Chihuahuas, bathing promotes a clean coat by removing dirt, dander, debris and loose hair. We recommend bathing Chihuahuas once every 2-3 weeks. If your Chihuahua sheds during winter and/or spring, however, you can bathe him weekly during these seasonal sheds.
  • Treat allergy-related shedding with hydrocortisone shampoo. If contact allergies are to blame for your Chihuahua's excessive shedding, use a hydrocortisone shampoo when bathing him. Hydrocortisone suppresses inflammation and itching associated with allergic reactions.
  • Use a blow dryer. After bathing your Chihuahua, use a blow dryer on the cool-air setting to remove loose hair from his coat.
  • Use a deshedding spray. Try using a waterless deshedding spray to control your Chihuahua's shedding. These sprays typically contain natural ingredients that moisturizes and strengthens a dog's hair.
  • Vacuum and sweep floors. By vacuuming carpet and sweeping floors, you'll remove excess hair in your home. Alternatively, you can use a damp mop to remove loose hair from hardwood and vinyl floors.
  • Use a lint roller. Sofas and recliners are magnets for loose pet hair. To keep your Chihuahua's hair off your furniture, run a lint roller across the upholstery. You can also use a lint roller directly on your Chihuahua to remove loose hair from his coat.
  • Provide your Chihuahua high-quality food. Avoid feeding your Chihuahua food consisting mostly of corn, filler ingredients, preservatives and artificial ingredients. Instead choose a variety of food with high-quality protein (not meal) as the leading ingredient. You can click on the aforementioned link for more information on choosing the right food for your Chihuahua.
  • Add olive oil to your Chihuahua's diet. Drizzle a teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil over your Chihuahua's food once daily. The high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids keeps excessive shedding in check by promoting a healthy, shiny coat.
  • Give your Chihuahua nutritional supplements. There are dozens of nutritional supplements designed specifically to reduce shedding in dogs. These supplements often contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, flaxseed oil, and various vitamins. While it's no substitution for a well-balanced diet, supplements can certainly help.
  • Take your Chihuahua for regular checkups. Assuming he's full grown, you should take your Chihuahua to the vet every 6 months for a routine wellness checkup. This can reveal infections, diseases, skin disorders and other problems that may cause excessive shedding.
  • Dress your Chihuahua in clothes. A dog shirt or sweater isn't just a fashion statement; it controls shedding by keeping loose hair in place. After undressing your Chihuahua, immediately brush his coat to remove stray hair.

What You Shouldn't Do

While excessive shedding can be a nuisance, you shouldn't shave your Chihuahua. A dog's coat plays an important role in regulating his body temperature. If you shave his coat, he'll lack the insulation needed to stay warm during winter, and he'll lack the protective top hairs needed to slow down heat absorption and stay cool in summer.

Shaving your Chihuahua also exposes his skin to sun damage. Without a protective layer of fur, dogs can develop painful sunburns, regardless of the season. You can trim your Chihuahua's coat, but you should never shave it.

How do you manage your Chihuahua's shedding? Let us know in the comments section below!

References:

http://www.furminator.com/why-do-dogs-cats-and-rabbits-shed.aspx

http://www.2ndchance.info/dogshed.htm

https://www.pets4homes.co.uk/pet-advice/canine-coat-growth-and-shedding-explained.html

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/dog-care-shedding.aspx




17 Responses to “Dealing with a Shedding Chihuahua”

  1. Melissa says:

    I have a 3 year old Apple Head she has the mini Pin colors, I lost my husband last year and this year we have moved right now shes not as free to roam as she would like but it’s only until I find a place I’m staying with my Brother, She has started shedding really bad On her head and neck area mostly, Is there anyone with a answer on a remedy? Is it stress??

  2. Julia Cleave says:

    I have a chi cross I have never known a dog shed as much as she does -i ‘ve tried everything. Every day we have to vacuum the furniture and the carpet (and her) I have a furminator that just seems to loosen them off to allow them to shed everywhere, I walk around looking like i slept in her bed due to the amount of hairs on me!

  3. Mia says:

    The hair just never stops 😭😭😭😭😭😭

  4. PJ says:

    I have a standard female chi. 3 yrs She just finished shedding., what i thought was end of summer coat, only for her to start another shedding period. We lost 2 rotties in may. Zoey (chi) went thru depression period and I thought that may have delayed her shedding cycle, as most my dogs in the past would shed spring/fall she has hit me back to back with EXCESSIVE SHEDDING!! I have changed her food, and she seems happy with the change, but does anyone have a solution that can help me to get the EXCESSIVE SHEDDING under control? She’s a happy little girl in all other aspects. True companion til the end but the EXCESSIVE SHEDDING is driving me crazy! Would giving fish oil in her food (omega 3), help reduce shedding? Any tried true “home remedies”, advice, greatly appreciated.

  5. Dee says:

    I have two chihuahuas. one short coat and one had medium length hair and the short coat sheds a little but not much. the one with medium length hair sheds a lot. its always all over even right after she takes a bath. I have really bad allergies but I love them to death so I just sweep my floors every two days and give them a bath every two weeks to help.

  6. Cliff says:

    I have 3 of the little guys. Two black and one white. The white one sheds a lot but not the other two. They are all boys. The two blacks fight all the time but not the white one. They are great watch dogs

  7. marilyn may says:

    I have a 4 year old applehead who sheds year round. Unfortunately, she’s light haired and we have dark wood floors through out our home and I detect the hair constantly and I’m forever vacuuming and brushing. I love her still but threaten to shave her bald!

  8. Patty says:

    The only thing I have found to help with the shedding is a vitamin you can get at the pet store and using conditioner after the bath and or argon oil.

  9. Alan says:

    Just spent two hours brushing my long haired and it’s still falling out
    One tip is to brush them outdoors and let the wind take it away

  10. Ashley says:

    I have a homemade remedy it works for me . My chihuahua is 12 months and sheds like there no tomorro i brush my hands accross him and a whole hand full of hair comes out . My grandmother told me to squeeze fresh lime juice on his coat and lather him up in it leave it for a coulple hours then rinse . I do this every other day and its been helping . Hope it works for yall .

  11. BILLIE says:

    I have Chihuahua’s they are gonna shed no matter what you do… I have 3 of them just get used to it.. you get a dog you have to expect hair!!! If you don’t like it don’t get a dog…If you can live with it then you have found a best friend and a companion.. welcome to the puppy parent world

  12. Joann says:

    My dog shed continuously and is selsun blue could for him not to shed and dandruff I’ve tried everything

  13. Marie says:

    I’m on my 3rd Chihuahua, he’s 6 months old, and just started shedding, it seemed like a lot but I got most of it off just using my hands. I still bought the furminator on ebay, I know I will need it in the future. My previous Chihuahua shed like crazy, unbelievable how such a small animal can be holding so much hair hidden in their body. Chihuahuas are adorable to their owner, they love you and protect you like crazy, extremely loyal. I too had very expensive vet bills with my second Chi, with this last one I just changed vets, the new vet is a lot more affordable, no fancy lab work, my previous one got its liver function checked by a blood test, don’t ask me how much I paid for that, geez! My new vet gives you the first visit free, you only pay for deworming meds and shots which was like 25 bucks, with the old vet I paid close to 200 on the first visit, the office is not as fancy but I’m not rich enough to pay for fancy yet!

  14. jenevie j says:

    I have a one too but she is mixed with some other dog ..I rescued her from the street and it came out that she was having babies so after the babies she started to shed so much and u it’ll now she has been shedding so much …I’m getting tired of it ….it’s all over my bad a d my house and my clothes

  15. mr.alley w.l. says:

    I have a Chihuahua who is about 10 lbs and sheds 12 lbs a week, or seems like it. Man, I have been around dogs all my life as a farm boy and cowboy, and even horses and bulls don’t shed this much (I have brushed both). It’s like a movie from hell with little man. He’s a smooth coat with all-white hair, so we call him casper! He is my buddy and guard dog. I will never have another one like him! He eats steak, burger, hot dogs, dog food, chew bones and chicken strips. He eats better than I do if you look at the cost, and he gets a raw egg every ones in a while, but at least he don’t smoke or drink. But he’s a serious shedder.

    I brush him with a 25 dollar brush made just for animals to remove hair and not hurt pets. My farm dogs did not get half of this and lived hard and lived 10 to 14 yrs old! Are little dogs just more work than big dogs or what? I will love my little boy to the end and I hope it’s a 20 friend. Maybe I’ll get to go first before him and he can break in one of my family too.

  16. courtney m. says:

    I have a 2 year old Applehead. I love him with all my heart, and I typically don’t mind the shedding. But recently he has been shedding A LOT. More than I have ever seen any small dog shed. I’ve been brushing him 2x daily in the tub (to reduce the amount of fur I get on me and the furniture) and I bathe him every week.
    I know dogs shed, but this is just..excessive.
    Could the shedding be a result of stress?

  17. Mike says:

    I never owned a chihuahua but I always wanted one. I never thought they have shedding problems … the more I research the more I hear about it.

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