One of the biggest gripes of dog owners is dog hair! On the furniture, on your clothes – it seems to get everywhere!
Shedding is the loss of hair or fur. It’s very similar to how humans ‘shed’ hair whenever you wash or brush your hair. Dogs shed hair as part of a normal growth cycle but they may also show unusual shedding when they are ill or have an infection or allergy.
So do West Highland Terriers shed? What is normal shedding for a West Highland Terrier? Are they considered heavy or light shedders?
Compared to other dogs, Westies don’t shed much. These dogs have a hard, straight, white outer coat about two inches long and an even shorter undercoat. However, despite their minimal shedding, Westies still require regular grooming to keep their coat in tip-top condition.
Do Westies Have Fur or Hair?
The answer to this question is a bit complicated. Westies have both fur and hair.
The hair is what you see when you look at a Westie. The fur is what you feel when you pet a Westie.
The hair on a Westie is called the outer coat. It is longer and coarser than the undercoat and has a wiry appearance. The undercoat is shorter and softer and considered ‘fur’.
The fur undercoat helps keep the dog cool in warm weather. while the coarser outercoat protects the dog from the elements.
How Much Do Westies Shed?
Westies are among the lowest shedding dog breeds in the world. Most people believe it’s because they have hair instead of fur, but this isn’t true. They have both! For the purposes of this article, we will refer to hair only as the principles are the same for both hair and fur.
The only determining factor of the amount of general shedding in dogs is individual breed and hair growth cycles. The longer a dog’s hair remains in the growth cycle, the longer it tends to grow, and the less it sheds.
In other words, in low-shedding dogs, it takes more time for the hair to grow, stop growing, and eventually fall out. Westies fall in this category, and as a result, you’ll not have to deal with too much shedding.
However, apart from the growth cycle, several other factors may influence how much your Westie is shedding. These include:
- diet and nutrition
- seasonal shedding
- living conditions
We’ll explain what each of those means and how they affect Westie shedding below.
Diet and Nutrition
Hair is made up of 90% protein, and up to 30% of a dog’s daily protein intake is used in hair growth and epidermal keratinization processes. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies have been observed to cause hair loss and alopecia in cats and dogs.
Hair loss due to diet is rare if your dog has a well-balanced diet. However, if the dog has a genetic factor or illness that interferes with its ability to absorb nutrients, hair loss (often termed alopecia) can occur. This condition may also arise if your Westie is eating less as a result of stress or illness.
If you own a Westie and you notice excessive shedding, it’s advisable to visit a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Hormones may also impact the rate of hair growth because they affect the initiation of the growing phase of a hair follicle – known as anagen. Hormones like estrogens inhibit anagen, thereby affecting the rate of hair growth. Disease and stress may also inhibit anagen, resulting in hair loss.
Older dogs tend to shed more than puppies. This happens because puppies have a lower percentage of follicles in the fully-matured (telogen) phase of hair growth compared to older dogs. Once a hair follicle has reached full maturity, the hair remains in place for a period of time before the hair falls out and new hair begins to grow.
Seasonal shedding is most often seen in Spring and Fall.
As Winter turns to Spring, your Westie wants to thin his hair to prepare for the warmer months. The hair they grew over the winter is no longer needed to keep them warm, so their body starts shedding it.
Dogs often shed in Fall too as they lose their thinner summer coat and grow thicker hair for the Winter.
Seasonal shedding is more prominent in outdoor dogs. Indoor dogs that experience more controlled even temperature year-round have less reason to change their hair cover according to the seasons and may maintain a steady shedding rate year-round. Shedding rates will return to normal afterwards.
You shouldn’t worry too much about seasonal shedding with Westies, because even when it happens, it’s in low amounts.
A dog’s living conditions may also influence how much he sheds. Molting is more common with dogs that stay indoors and have particularly long hair. Dogs that live indoors shed about 39% more than dogs that live out in the open.
Are Westies Hypoallergenic?
Westies are considered hypoallergenic dogs due to their low shedding. In general, it’s believed that because they shed less hair, they won’t affect allergy sufferers. However, there is no such thing as a completely hypoallergenic dog. Even a hairless dog can cause allergies because experts believe dander is the main cause of dog allergies, not hair or fur. Dander is the dead skin the animal sheds.
Pet dander travels through the air and settles on furniture and floors, ready for you to breathe in when the dander is disturbed.
People can also be allergic to the animal’s sweat and saliva.
Therefore, just because a dog doesn’t shed doesn’t automatically make them a hypoallergenic pet.
Nonetheless, low-shedding dogs like Westies are considered the best option for allergy sufferers.
Are Westies Hypoallergenic? 3 Reasons Why Westies Are Great Pets For Allergy Sufferers
Grooming Your Westie
Westies require regular grooming to keep their coat in tip-top condition. The traditional method of grooming a Westie involves hand stripping. This is where you essentially pluck the dog’s old hair out a couple of times a year. The process can be extremely tedious. The time and effort you put into it will depend on how particular you are about how the coat looks and whether your dog participates in any shows.
If you decide to hand groom your Westie, you’re going to need to learn the technique and use a hand-stripping tool to do it right. However, it’s best to take your dog to a professional groomer if you’re a beginner.
Alternatively, you can clip the dog’s hair. Be careful not to cut the undercoat; you only need to do enough to keep the hair in check. Don’t forget to clip around the feet, ears, and eyes. For general grooming, use a slicker brush to groom the Westie’s coat occasionally to prevent matting, remove dead hairs, and keep the coat tangle-free.
How Often Should You Bathe Your Westie?
Regular baths should also be part of your grooming process. Just don’t overdo it. As a general rule, you should bathe a Westie once every four to six weeks. Bathing your dog too many times may cause the shampoo to strip the dog’s fur of natural oils.
When the dog’s coat is stripped of natural oils, it not only becomes excessively dry and unattractive but may also shed more than usual. Moreover, with excessive bathing, you can cause your Westie unwanted skin problems.
Most importantly, use a dog-friendly good quality shampoo.
You can choose to clip the dog’s hair after a bath, so you’re doing all the grooming all at once.
How Often Should You Bathe A Westie?
As you can see, Westies are relatively low maintenance in terms of grooming, and they’re among the lowest-shedding dog breeds. You shouldn’t, therefore, have to worry about having hair or fur all over your house and car. They’re believed to be among the best options for people with dog allergies.