Monday, August 26, 2013

Ask the Vet: Shedding by Kristel Weaver, DVM, MPVM

My dogs shed excessively.  When I leave the house I have to use the lint roller on my clothes, the house has to be vacuumed twice a week and when we go on vacation we find hair in our suitcase even though the dogs never go near them!  Like many dog owners, I get tired of living with so much dog hair.  Here are some of the frequent questions clients ask me about shedding.

Why does my dog shed so much?
Shedding varies depending on the breed of dog.  Breeds with short hair shed more than breeds with long hair.  Dogs that are primarily outside will shed their coat as the seasons change, where as dogs that are primarily inside will shed a little bit year round.

Hair length is determined by how long the hair follicle spends in the anagen or growth phase.  Dogs with short hair have a short growth phase (months) whereas dogs with long hair may have hair follicles in the anagen phase for years.  Hair also goes through catagen, which is a transitional phase and telogen, which is a resting phase when the hair falls out.  Then the cycles starts over again for that hair follicle.

The seasonality of shedding is based on hours of daylight, controlled by the hormone melatonin.  Usually the biggest shed is when the days increase in length, in the springtime.  Indoor dogs are affected by artificial light and do not show the same seasonal shed, instead they shed a little bit all the time.

What can I do to stop my dog from shedding so much?
Unfortunately you cannot stop a dog with short hair from shedding.  You can minimize the shedding by feeding a high quality diet, using flea preventative to minimize scratching and treating skin problems.  If you brush your dog regularly you may find less hair around the house.

What breeds are considered hypoallergenic or low shedding?
Breeds that have continuously growing hair shed less.  These dogs are sometimes called hypoallergenic, however a better name for this group is low shedding since all dogs have dander and can be a source of allergies.  Breeds that are considered low shedding are the Bedlington Terrier, Bichon Frise, Chinese Crested Terrier, Coton de Tulear, Havanese, Maltese, Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog, Schnauzer, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier and Yorkshire Terrier.  Poodle mixes are very popular, however there is still some variability in how much they shed, even within a litter.  Keep in mind a dog with continuously growing hair needs to be brushed regularly and take frequent trips to the groomer.

Hopefully this information helps you understand why you find dog hair everywhere or why your dog needs to be groomed all the time!

Dr. Kristel Weaver is a graduate of the Veterinary School at the University of California, Davis where she received both a DVM and a Master’s of Preventative Veterinary Medicine (MPVM).  She has been at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care in San Ramon since 2007.  She currently lives in Oakland with her husband and their daughter, Hayley. If you have questions you would like Dr. Weaver to answer for future articles, please email

From Tragedy to Triumph: The Tale of TJ by Erin Selby and JJ Jacobson

On Monday August 5th, TJ the German Shepherd Dog was rushed through the front door of our lobby to receive urgent care for a ghastly leg injury. The origins of TJ’s injury and what his life was like before that day are shrouded in mystery, but from the moment a Good Samaritan found him on a front porch in Livermore, TJ’s story took a dramatic turn for the better.  

Early that Monday morning, Laura Long spotted a German Shepherd dog on a neighborhood porch and suspected he was injured. She and her daughter Candice approached TJ and discovered the horrible condition of his leg. Candice called the Livermore Police Animal Control, who arrived on the scene around 9:30am.  The Livermore Police Animal Control officer described the dog’s leg as “horrific and probably the worst untreated injury I have ever seen. The suffering that the dog must have endured is unthinkable.”  

Livermore Animal Control took TJ (TJ’s collar was inscribed with the name Roky but he has since been renamed Tre-joe, or “TJ”) to Adobe Animal Hospital in Livermore, where they provided pain management.  Animal Control called Cindy Churchill at Tri-Valley Animal Rescue (TVAR) who then contacted JJ Jacobson of Bay Area German Shepherd Rescue to see if they could take TJ on. 

Images of TJ and his collar from the Livermore Police Department

“I knew I'd have to help Tre-joe,” said JJ. “I started putting feelers out for donations and decided to snatch TJ up and take him to Dr. Larry Gilman at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center.” TVAR donated money for the amputation surgery; their generous donation allowed Bay Area German Shepherd Rescue to make an easy decision to help TJ get the help he deserved.

That afternoon TJ was transferred to Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center. His arrival was greeted by shock, horror and concern by the entire staff.  Dr. Gilman examined the sweet but nervous dog. 

Based on the type of injuries sustained and the condition of the wound it is likely that TJ was hit by a car 5 to 7 days before he was found by Laura. He had suffered a severe degloving, leaving exposed bones and severe tissue damage; he also had multiple fractures on the same leg. A degloving often occurs when a pet is hit by a car.  The injury is so deep and severe that the recuperation time is often 9 months, or amputation is necessary.  Someone, presumably the owners, had bandaged his leg but did not provide any medical treatment.  On the day he was found, the bandaging was tattered and dripping with blood.  One could easily see the bloody raw tissue as well as black tissue; the black tissue was skin that had already died.  Various bones from his foot and leg were completely exposed. In addition to his leg wound, TJ's tongue and trachea were damaged. His tongue was raw, bloody, and blistered and seemed to be in line with possible poison ingestion. 

Dr. Gilman determined that TJ’s leg would need to be amputated and he was scheduled for surgery the following day. Dr. Gilman, Dr. Trevor Miller, and Dr. Stefanie Wong performed the surgery, which  went smoothly, and was without complications. TJ ended up staying a total of three nights before going home with JJ. Since then he has been recuperating and rehabilitating.  According to JJ, “He is up and around, and he will be ready for his new home within weeks.”

While most animals who lose a limb adapt very well to having three legs, there is a small concern regarding TJ’s remaining front leg.  His pastern (the part of a dog’s foot that corresponds to the area between the wrist and the fingers on a human hand) is not well formed, most likely due to poor nutrition.  The severe angle of the pastern compromises the strength of his remaining leg, which will need to be in great condition for the rest of TJ's life.

Laura continues to care deeply about TJ’s future and has visited him since that fateful Monday morning. In response to the concerns regarding TJ’s weakened remaining front leg, Laura is planning a fund raiser so a front-end cart for TJ may be purchased.  The cart, a front end wheel chair, would be used for walks and excursions.  He would not need it when he is hopping around the house.  The cart is expected to be approximately $3000, but that is a generic ball-park figure. For more information about the fund raiser and donating money towards a cart please visit

TJ visited Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center on August 22nd for a recheck and to get his stitches removed. Dr. Gilman was thrilled with his surgery site, TJ's temperament, and how well he is doing. He is a very popular with all of the staff and receives lots of love and attention wherever he goes.   
TJ goes for his recheck
Currently TJ is being fostered by JJ but he will soon be in need of a forever home. He has one more month of recuperation and getting stronger, at which time he will be available for adoption.  TJ's new owners will need to have German Shepherd experience, have a lifestyle that will allow for easy mobility, and take great care of this very special boy.  TJ likes to play with toys, enjoys chew toys and can easily jump up to explore counters.  He is a very happy guy with a gentle disposition.

Please visit Bay Area German Shepherd Rescue’s webpage at to learn more about this wonderful organization. As a rescue group, every dollar counts so donations are greatly appreciated. If you are interested in learning more about TJ and feel that your family and home has the proper qualifications for caring for this special boy please visit You can learn more about TVAR and their Cinderella Fund that helps animals with special needs like TJ at The Livermore Police Department is looking for any information about TJ’s former owners. He was found in the Springtown area of Livermore at the corner of Red Fir Way and Monterey Drive. Animal Control is urging anyone with information regarding the owner of the dog to contact them at (925) 371-4848.