When choosing a dog, like the Brittany, it is essential to consider whether their shedding is compatible with your lifestyle. No one wants to live in a tumbleweed of shed dog fur, but some people are more sensitive to shed dog fur than others.
Brittanys are moderate year-round shedders who show minor seasonal fluctuations. A Brittany’s shedding is managed through routine grooming and good nutrition. Acquired alopecia or excessive shedding in Brittanys is due to an underlying disease process, behavioral reason, or environmental cause.
Dust bunnies, hairy tumbleweeds, and fur-filled corners are standard features in most dog households. Everyone wants a spotless house, but not everyone has the time or inclination to dedicate hours to grooming their Brittany.
A Brittany’s Coat
A Brittany is not a fashion accessory and will never achieve the bouffant hairstyles of a Poodle or Pomeranian; Brittanys have been bred to perform a specific purpose, which is reflected in their coats.
The French peasantry bred Brittanys as an all-purpose hunting dog; these were working men and women who did not have the time or money to spend hours pampering their beloved dogs.
A Brittany’s Coat Texture
A Brittany’s coat is a dense single coat that can be flat or slightly wavy but should never be curly. The hair texture is robust and hardy, falling midway between a wiry coat and a silky coat.
Is Feathering Permissible In Brittanys?
The thick, sturdy hair follicles and body-hugging coat protect the Brittanys’ delicate skin without becoming entangled in burrs, leaves, and bushes.
For this reason, only a minimal amount of feathering on the ears and legs is permitted. Excessive feathering in Brittanys is severely penalized and results in automatic elimination from breed competitions.
How Much Does A Healthy Brittany Shed?
A dog’s natural shedding is described according to two criteria:
- The number of hair follicles sheds which is found on a continuum of none, low, moderate, and high
- Seasonal versus year-round shedding patterns
Brittanys are classified as moderate year-round shedders with minor seasonal differences, i.e., your Brittany may shed more at the end of winter as their shorter summer coat grows in.
However, each Brittany is an individual, and the amount they shed will vary between dogs; some Brittany’s shed slightly more while others appear never to shed!
How Does A Brittany’s Shedding Compare To Other Dogs?
It can be challenging to visualize how much a Brittany sheds when their shedding is described as “moderate” and not quantified numerically according to the shed hairs’ number, volume, and weight.
A Brittany spaniel sheds less than a Newfoundland, a non-seasonal heavy shedder but sheds more than a Chinese Crested Dog or Portuguese Water Dog. Nor does a Brittany Spaniel have the heavy seasonal shedding seen in double-coated dogs like the Alaskan Malamute and Groenendal Belgian Shepherd.
Health Conditions That Cause Excessive Shedding In Brittanys
Shedding is a normal part of the Brittanys’ physiology. It allows the Brittanys to replace old and damaged hair with new growth and grow thicker or thinner coats depending on the season.
However, some Brittanys may develop a condition called alopecia, in which the hair is lost faster than it can regrow. Alopecia is defined as excessive hair loss causing thinning of hair or complete baldness.
Causes Of Excessive Shedding And Alopecia In Brittanys
- Inflammatory conditions, e.g., allergies; skin trauma; poisoning; and bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections.
- Non-inflammatory conditions, e.g., nutritional deficiencies; non-hereditary congenital conditions; hormonal imbalances
- Friction rubs and mechanical trauma from excessive grooming or poorly fitting equipment
- Temporary hair loss, e.g., a lactating female
- A side-effect of medication, e.g., cortisone or anti-seizure medication
The Symptoms Of Alopecia In Brittanys
The symptoms of alopecia include:
- Excessive hair loss
- Itchiness and incessant scratching
- Inflammation and redness of the skin
- Areas of thinning hair or bald patches
- Dry, brittle hair; however, a few conditions causing alopecia also result in oily coats
- Moist dermatitis, i.e., hot spots
A Brittany does not have to show all the symptoms to be diagnosed with alopecia; alopecia can be diagnosed based on the relative hair density of an individual Brittany compared to the breed standard.
Diagnosing Brittanys With Alopecia
Alopecia or excessive shedding can only be diagnosed if the Brittany:
- Sheds significantly more than expected of the breed
- Changes their shedding patterns, resulting in noticeably more hair being lost
It is essential to remember that alopecia is a symptom of an underlying condition and not a primary disease process. A vet should examine all Brittanys with suspected alopecia to determine why they are shedding so much fur.
The vet will closely inspect your Brittany’s body, skin, and hair condition. Based on their findings and clinical suspicion, they may also request blood tests to discover why your Brittany is going bald.
Once the vet has discovered the cause of your Brittany’s alopecia, they will recommend a course of treatment to manage the condition.
Feeding Your Brittany For Coat Health
Brittanys with poor coat quality and excessive shedding should be fed vet-recommended nutritionally complete diets. These diets will ensure that hair loss is not caused by malnutrition.
The critical elements to ensuring your Brittany’s coat receives the nutrition it needs is:
- Protein: 20% to 30% of all protein fed to a Brittany is used to ensure their skin and hair remain healthy
- Essential fatty acids (i.e., omega 3 and 6 fatty acids) are protective components in the integumentary system (skin layers) and secretions.
- Vitamin E and A
- Trace elements and minerals, i.e., zinc, copper, iodine, selenium, and manganese
Grooming Your Brittany To Manage Their Shedding
Brittanys are relatively easy dogs to groom; a quick brush twice a week is usually sufficient to prevent excessive shedding. Washing Brittanys with a canine-specific hypoallergenic shampoo can be done every 4 to 6 weeks or as needed; some Brittanys love the mud and require more frequent washing to stay in pristine condition.
Regularly grooming your Brittany ensures that loose hair is removed in a controlled manner and distributes the dog’s natural oils evenly throughout their coat. Overgrooming can be counterproductive and cause excessive hair loss due to mechanical trauma inflicted on healthy hair follicles.
Please don’t use harsh brushes as these can damage the hair shafts, causing them to break and result in pseudo-shedding.
Weekly home-grooming can be done with a soft pin-head brush. However, professional Brittany groomers will use curved scissors, thinning shears, metal combs, clippers, and slicker brushes in addition to the standard pin-head brush to create the perfect show groom.
Dawn Droel of Sovereign Brittany Kennels has created an excellent instructional video on how to groom a Brittany.
Brittanys have a sleek coat of medium length and minimal feathering. These dogs are moderate shedders who may show small seasonal fluctuations in the amount of hair shed.
A regular grooming schedule and good nutrition ensure that your Brittany coat remains healthy and does not shed excessively.