A sure sign of Autumn in my house was always my greyhound, Shannon, panting on a nice, cool day. Yes, a COOL day, because that’s how I knew that he had shed so much, so suddenly, that it was building up under his coat, and feeling like an itchy wool sweater.
Greyhounds typically shed seasonally, twice a year. One should not seek to stop this natural process should not be stopped; but it can be completed sooner with a bath and frequent brushing. They will also shed when under stress or stimulation of their prey drive. Stress-shedding can be curtailed by reducing the greyhound’s stress with a quieter environment and plenty of exercise. Oily additives to the coat or the diet will not prevent the hair from falling out, as shed is caused by a complex physiological response, which starts in the greyhound’s brain.
If you’re overwhelmed by loose greyhound hair, marking your clothing, clogging your appliances, and rolling around in little tumbleweeds, this is the right article for you! Let’s explore why greyhounds shed, and what can be done to reduce all that hair in your air.
Causes of Shedding in Greyhounds
Greyhounds Shed with the Change of Seasons
Your greyhound is a very fashionable fellow (or lady) – He demands – and gets – two new coats a year! Greyhounds typically go through two seasonal sheds each year – One when the weather becomes warmer; and the other, when it cools down again. You will notice, when this happens, that his new coat will be thinner or thicker, in accordance with the oncoming season.
Because seasonal shedding tends to occur fairly quickly (AKA “blowing his coat”), you may find your greyhound in an uncomfortable state. If he seems itchy, grumpy, or like he’s panting a lot, he may be suffering from a build-up of dead, trapped hair. Although greyhounds do not usually have an undercoat, some do. If you have ever used a medication on him that needs to go directly onto his skin, you may have noticed that, even if his hair is thin, its growth can be very dense!
You can begin a tedious regimen of daily combing…you may have to, anyway, until the shedding is complete…but the best thing you can do is to give him a bath. In fact, shedding seasons are the only time I bathe my greyhounds. As long as their bedding is kept laundered, they are remarkably clean dogs.
Anyway, a bath will break up the film of grease, dirt, dander, and shed fur which build up against his skin. Once all that is off of him, his relief will be visible.
Do Greyhounds Shed from Stress?
You be they do! “Dogs shed when they’re nervous as a defense mechanism. That way, if a predator grabs them, all the predator gets is a mouthful of fur, and doggie gets away,” states Amanda Barr, a Registered Veterinary Technician at Western University of Health Science.
How does this ancient response work? “Dogs have tiny little muscles called erector pilli muscles. They allow the dog to raise its fur in response to a threat, [such as] the vet. When they raise their fur up, loose fur and skin are pulled up and away from the skin, leading to the appearance of excess shedding,” says Dr. Timothy Mason, DVM.
Greyhounds with High Prey Drive Shed More
The same physical mechanism that causes stress-related shedding also causes extra shedding in greyhounds with higher prey-drive. Often, owners blame a case of bald thighs on his racing career. This may be true, but not for the reason you might think. A racing dog’s prey-drive is encouraged as part of his training. When that prey drive kicks in multiple times a day, those erector pilli muscles can get pretty stretched out, to the point where it’s hard for his follicles to keep up with replacing the hair that’s falling out, and bald patches can form. Some greyhounds will regain that hair with the more relaxed housepet lifestyle. Others remain on high alert for the rest of their lives, and the bald patches are there to stay.
If your greyhound has bald thighs, I have a lot more info and solutions for that here:
Could My Greyhound Have a Thyroid Problem?
It is a common misconception that low thyroid is often seen in greyhounds. This is only partially true – Greyhounds do tend to score low on thyroid testing, but that is typical to the breed and not necessarily an indicator of poor health. It is not, therefore, something that should be “corrected” pharmaceutically. Prescription medicines carry risks and side effects, especially for the sensitive greyhound, and should never be administered where his health is not in jeopardy.
Of course, like any creature with a thyroid, it is possible for a greyhound to genuinely have a problem with his. If you have ruled out all other causes, and you consult your vet about the shedding, listen to his ideas first, before introducing the idea of low thyroid.
For the full explanation as to why healthy greyhounds come out naturally low on thyroid tests, check out my previously-mentioned article on bald thighs.
How Do I Stop My Greyhound’s Shedding?
Stress-shedding can be reduced simply by reducing the dog’s stress. In other words, provide a more sedate environment. Here are a few tips, just to give you an idea:
- Move his bed off to a quieter, less active part of the room.
- Provide some calming background noise for him with a white noise machine, TV, or radio.
- Bring a washable pad to the vet’s office, so he can wait comfortably.
- Help him cope with fear of thunder. My article of panting has some ideas about that: https://greyhoundhomecare.com/why-does-my-greyhound-pant-so-much/ (scroll about 1/3 of the way down)
- Make car travel easier for him: https://greyhoundhomecare.com/my-greyhound-gets-carsick/
The short answer for seasonal shedding is to either wash the loose hair off, or remove it by hand with a grooming device. There are several good ways to go about this; but first, many owners ask:
What About Adding Fats to My Greyhound’s Diet or Coat?
Daniel Grimmett, DVM of the Sunset Veterinary Clinic in Edmond, OK says to “try an omega-3 and -6 fatty acid supplement for dogs (speak to your veterinarian first).”
Some owners say omega oils reduce their dogs’ shedding, but I am somewhat skeptical. I think it probably improves the coat; but shedding is hair falling out of the follicle, not dry hair breaking off. Still, these oils have several health benefits; so if you are interested in administering them to your greyhound, ask your vet about the pros and cons of this supplements. Some are better than others, and there are many variations of them, which are formulated specifically for dogs.
Greyhound Bathing Tips
- Save your plumbing by either bathing him outdoors, or placing a screen over your drain to keep the hair from creating a clog.
- If bathing outdoors, pick a sunny, still day to avoid chilling the hound.
- Use comfortably warm water. When I bathe Lily outside, I partilly fill two 5-gallon buckets out on my deck, using a hose. Then, I gently bring up the temperature by adding some hot water from the kettle or hot tap water. Check it, as though you were about to bathe a baby.
- Use a very mild soap. I like liquid castile soaps. They are easy to work with and are extremely mild. Since they are more natural AND clean well, they have many uses for anyone who prefers headache-free, “green” housecleaning.
- Bathing goes much faster when you have a helper!
Favorite Greyhound Grooming Tools
In the next section, I list owners’ picks for shed-removal tools available from the pet supply store; but you may be surprised to find that the most-frequently recommended shedding solutions are of the DIY variety! The device cited the most frequently as the favorite for removing shed hair from a greyhound is a hacksaw blade.
After rummaging through our toolroom, I came away with several hacksaw blades that didn’t look too threatening, and tried one (carefully!) on Lily, and – sure enough – it did a nice job. Lily has a very delicate coat. Of all my dogs’ coats, Lily’s is the thinnest, finest, and shortest. I drew the blade gently across her coat, and was impressed at the amount of hair it drew off, even in the middle of winter, when she’s between sheds.
Shed removal, at its best, has two parts – Bringing up the hair, filth, and dander to the surface; and then making sure you get it all off of your greyhound and out of the house. Once you get that mess up where you can deal with it, finish the job! Run one of these lightly over his coat:
- Damp hands
- Damp washcloth
- Baby wipe
- Strips of blue painters’ tape, or cheap masking tape
Buying a Greyhound Grooming Tool
Shedding blades are very popular for removing the loose hair from a greyhound, as are rubber curry combs. Many greyhound owners are also horse afficienados, and have learned a thing or two about how to reduce shedding.
The best tool I have ever purchased is a fine-toothed, stainless steel flea-removal comb. Since it’s designed to remove fleas and all the nasty, little bits that come with them, it works great at busting up all that shed build-up.
One problem with metal tools of all kinds is one must be extremely careful not to damage the dog’s skin while using them. Of course, we’re careful not to injure our pets, but there is still the concern that if shed-removal could become unpleasant for him, he might become uncooperative. Because of this, rubber tools, such as the StripHair Gentle Groomer and the Kong Zoom Groom, are extremely popular with owners.
For greyt grooming tips, check out my article on kennel coat:
Resources for Further Info
Meet Dr. Timothy Mason, DVM:
More help for shedding by Dr. Grimmet: