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Do Westies Shed? (Why, How Much & How to Control It)

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West Highland White Terriers do shed, but only a little. Their low shedding also makes them hypoallergenic. Their shedding can be controlled with proper grooming, a nutrient-dense diet, and keeping their stress levels low.

Shedding is one of the major pains of owning a dog. Nobody likes to clean up their dog’s hair every day. But what about Westies?

This article explores how much Westies shed and why. 

You will learn what causes excessive shedding in West Highland Terriers and ways to keep shedding under control.

Do West Highland White Terriers Shed a Lot?

No, Westies don’t shed a lot. They are categorized as low shedders. They do shed more during the spring and fall, as they shed their seasonal coat.

Westies are double-coated, which means they have two layers of hair. Their undercoats are soft and short, while their outer coats are wiry and measure up to 2 inches in length. 

While they have two coats, they still don’t leave a lot of hair around. 

Because they have two coats, they shed more during the spring and fall. This is because they need to grow or lose extra hair in preparation for the change in temperature.

Compared to other popular breeds, such as Labrador and Golden retrievers, Westies are minimal shedders.

This table illustrates how much Westies shed compared to other Terriers.

BreedShedding Rate
West Highland White Terrier2/5
Jack Russell Terrier3/5
Airedale Terrier1/5
Boston Terrier 2/5
Bull Terrier3/5
Border Terrier2/5
Yorkshire Terrier1/5
American Staffordshire Terrier2/5
Parson Russell Terrier2/5
Welsh Terrier2/5
Do West Highland White Terriers Shed a Lot

This table illustrates how much Westies shed compared to the top 10 most popular breeds in the United States.[1]

BreedShedding Rate
West Highland White Terrier2/5
Labrador Retriever4/5
French Bulldog3/5
Golden Retriever4/5
German Shepherd4/5
Poodle1/5
Bulldog 3/5
Beagle3/5
Rottweiler3/5
German Shorthaired Pointer3/5
Dachshund2/5

Do Westie Dogs Shed More in Autumn and Spring?

Yes, Westies shed more during spring and autumn as they are seasonal shedders. 

This table illustrates how Westies shed throughout every season.

SeasonDescription
Spring Westies lose all the hair which had an insulating role during the winter and grow new hair for the summer. This means increased shedding.
Summer Westies grow new hair faster than during the winter. The bright natural light stimulates hair growth.
AutumnWesties get rid of their old hair, which means increased shedding.
Winter Westies preserve their hair to keep them warm until spring. During the cold season, half of Westies’ hair follicles are in the rest phase. 

Why Do West Highland Terriers Shed?

West Highland Terriers shed old hair to make space for the new hair to grow. Their hair deteriorates over time and doesn’t serve its protective role anymore. As a result, Westies’ hair follicles continuously regenerate during their lifetime. 

Dogs’ hair has a protective role, which is why it’s important to maintain good coat health.

Shedding is a conservative mechanism that protects Westies from injuries, UV rays, insects, heat, and external pathogens.

Why Do West Highland Terriers Shed

Westie Hair Growth Cycle

Dogs’ hair grows from small holes in the skin called follicles. Follicles make one or multiple hairs, depending on the structure of the follicle. 

As Westies are double-coated, they grow multiple hairs from each follicle. Each follicle produces hairs for both layers, the undercoat, as well as the outer coat.

Dogs’ hair follicles have various functions:[2]

  • Camouflage
  • Social interactions
  • Thermoregullation
  • Physical protection against external threats, such as insects and sharp objects
  • Immunological protection against external pathogens
  • Sensory perception

Their hair grows in stages. The growth rate is specific to each phase and the duration of the phases and hair growth rates differ among breeds.

This table illustrates the 4 hair-growing phases of Westies.

PhaseDescription 
AnagenThis is an active growth phase when the hair is continuously growing at a normal rate. During this stage, Westies’ hair length reaches its maximum of 2 inches.
CatagenDuring this transitional phase, hair growth slows down to a minimum. The base of the hair follicle undergoes degenerative changes.
TelogenThis is also called the rest phase. During this period, hair stops growing.
ExogenDuring this phase the dead hair falls out. 
Westie Hair Growth Cycle

What Causes Excessive Shedding in Westies?

Even though Westies are minimal shedders, they can shed more under certain circumstances, such as serious medical conditions.

If the amount of excess dead hair is low, it’s easy to miss it. Look at your brush after grooming to notice if there’s more hair than normal.

Here are 5 factors that cause excessive shedding in Westies:

  1. Parasites
  2. Health issues
  3. Stress 
  4. Poor nutrition
  5. Artificial light

1. Parasites

Certain external parasites (such as fleas[3] and French Heartworm[4]) can cause excessive hair loss. 

Flea bites don’t cause hair loss in all dogs. 

Westies have a predisposition for skin allergies, which makes them more susceptible to flea bite allergies. Hair loss is a symptom of this condition.

2. Health Conditions

Westies with certain health conditions can experience excessive shedding:

  • Bacterial or fungal skin infections
  • Follicular dysplasia
  • Liver disease
  • Immune disorders[6]
  • Kidney disease
  • Allergies
  • Pregnancy
  • Endocrine disorders

Lactating and pregnant Westie females also undergo hormonal changes that can cause them to lose more hair than usual. After giving birth, their hormone levels go back to normal, and shedding should go back to normal.

Endocrine disorders, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome, cause alopecia. Alopecia is described as losing high months of hair all at once, leaving bald patches.[5]

Westie Health Conditions

3. Stress 

Stress is one of the most common causes of increased shedding in Westies. When dogs are stressed for a prolonged period, their hair growth cycle can be disrupted. This disruption causes hair follicles to enter the rest phase earlier than usual. 

Trauma can also cause periods where the hair follicles enter the telogen phase all at once. As a result, hair falls out instantly.

4. Poor nutrition

Nutrition plays an important role in the health of Westies’ skin. If they don’t get enough of the following nutrients, they can lose more hair:

  • Vitamin A
  • Biotin 
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Selenium
  • Biotin

Biotin deficiency can lead to alopecia in dogs[7]. If they don’t get enough of this, westies experience bald patches on certain parts of their bodies. 

Westies have a predisposition for atopic dermatitis, also called atopy[8][9][10]. Dermatitis causes excessive hair loss due to increased inflammation and pruritus[11]. Food allergies are often the cause of dermatitis in dogs.[12]

Here are the ingredients to avoid for excessive shedding prevention in Westies:

  • Soy
  • Beef 
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Fish
Westies Nutrition

5. Artificial light

Artificial light has a similar effect on Westies’ hair growth as natural light. During the summer, dogs’ hair grows at a higher pace because of the sun. This also happens when dogs spend a lot of time indoors in artificial light. 

Under normal conditions, the days are shorter during the winter. Westies spend more time indoors when it’s cold outside, making their hair grow unnaturally fast. 

Are Westies Hypoallergenic?

Yes, Westies shed low amounts of hair, which makes them hypoallergenic. 

Westies are not 100% hypoallergenic, no breed is. Hypoallergenic means that something has a low potential of causing allergic reactions. People can experience allergies when they are around Westies, but the chances are lower than with other breeds.

Contrary to popular belief, humans are not allergic to dogs’ hair. They are allergic to components in dogs’ dander and bodily fluids, including saliva. 

When dogs’ dander detaches from their skin, it attaches to their hair. Also, when dogs lick their bodies, saliva sticks to their hair. When dogs then shed, dander and saliva particles become airborne and enter people’s bodies through their nostrils. 

Therefore, minimal shedder dogs are less likely to cause allergies.

Westies don’t produce high amounts of dander and are minimal droolers, making them perfect for allergic people.

Related: Are Westies Hypoallergenic?

Do Westies Hypoallergenic

Westie Grooming to Control Shedding

West Highland White Terrier shedding can be controlled with grooming. Daily hair brushing and professional hand stripping will keep their hair healthy. Reduce your Westie’s bathing frequency and use hypoallergenic products to prevent excessive shedding.

Dry Skin and Shedding in Westies

Due to their predisposition for atopy, Westies need to have moisturized skin. Dry skin can increase shedding and should be prevented.

Frequent bathing might seem like a good idea to reduce skin issues but it depletes the skin of natural oils. After bathing, the amount of oils in the skin decreases to 60%[13]. Levels return to normal ranges after 72 hours. 

Natural oils have a protective role. They keep the skin moisturized to avoid cracks. Small cracks in the skin allow external pathogens to enter, causing inflammation and itchiness.

Hypoallergenic shampoos and conditioners are made of natural moisturizing ingredients. Check the label and avoid the following:

  • Parabens[14]: Propylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben.
  • Perfume
  • Formaldehyde[15]: Imidazolidinyl urea, DMDN Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl urea, Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, Bronopol.
  • Sulfates: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS), Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALES).
About Ioana Moldovan

Ioana is a Misfit Animals staff writer and psychology student interested in animal behavior. She likes to dive deep into the newest scientific studies to find out the latest discoveries in the field.

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