It's hard to find a Shiba Inu owner who doesn't take pride in her dog's magnificent coat. This beauty comes at a price, though. Shibas have a seemingly bottomless supply of hair during shedding season, and they also are vulnerable to a few other causes of temporary hair loss.
If there were a personal hygiene competition between recognized dog breeds, the Shiba Inu would be a contender for first place. These fastidious dogs clean themselves regularly throughout each day. Their skin releases a natural oil that helps them regulate body temperature in various environments.
This is important for Shiba owners to know, because it's actually harmful to immerse these dogs in water or scrub their coat with cleaning products. Shampoo and water remove the natural oil that is released during self-grooming, and they could cause a lot of problems, including unsightly hair loss and itchiness. If your dog gets really dirty, dampen a cloth or towel and gently clean him with it.
Many Shibas, particularly those who spend a lot of time outdoors, go through two periods of seasonal shedding each year. Many Shiba owners say their dogs are "blowing coat" during shedding periods, because they lose such a significant amount of hair. Because the Shiba's coat is often full and pristine during the winter, you might be surprised at how comical or strange your dog looks when he sheds in the spring.
There's not much you can do to stop the shedding, but you can contain the mess. Brush your dog's entire body several times a day while he is blowing his coat, and vacuum your house several times a week. He will lose fur for two to three weeks each season, but you can confine him to a small part of the house until he stops shedding.
Mites, ticks and many other parasites can be problems for the Shiba Inu, but fleas are a much bigger threat. Shibas are genetically vulnerable to allergies and are at high risk of developing conditions such as flea allergy dermatitis, according to The National Shiba Club of America.
Flea bites are itchy enough to prompt any dog to scratch the same spot over and over, pulling out hair and damaging skin. But they're a lot worse for dogs who have an allergy to flea saliva, as rashes, hair loss and inflammation compound with the ordinary symptoms of a flea infestation. Because fleas can be impossible to see through a Shiba's thick winter coat, it is important to look through your dog's fur every week or two to make sure no parasites have colonized her skin.
If your Shiba is shedding out of season and there are no signs of parasties, then he might have an internal health problem. Take your dog to the vet as soon as you can. A swift diagnosis means you can treat your dog as quickly as possible, which could make a big difference if his shedding is a symptom of a serious illness. There is a small possibility that your dog is suffering from a dysfunction in one of his glands or organs.
But don't worry too much; chances are, the cause of your dog's shedding is completely treatable and reversible. He could be allergic to something in his environment, such as pollen, dust, or an ingredient in his food. Shedding is also a sign of common fungal and bacterial infections, which usually require only regular doses of an oral or topical treatment prescribed by your vet.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.