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Molt, Shedding, or Coat Changes

Gena Seaberg, Ph.D. © 1999 All Rights Reserved

Molting, shedding, or coat changes occur at different intervals and intensities for prairie dogs, regardless of what you might read on the internet about this species. Much varies uniquely from prairie dog to prairie dog due to individual metabolisms and chemistries combined with other factors mentioned below. From consulting internationally, I've learned that timing and severity depend on numerous factors:

1)Nutrition - if not on a proper diet, the coat can be oily, too dry, and other issues too long to list here. Reference the Captive Nutrition information on this website for more details relating to proper nutritional guidelines.

2)Habitat conditions - since the climate conditions of your specific country or state are NOT the same as what they would encounter in their wild colony setting (unless you live where they are native), humidity is often a large reason for skin/coat issues, and most molts occur around shifts in weather where humidity is higher. It is very important that you use dehumidifiers and keep their habitat and environment clean and DRY. Moisture can lead to skin and fungal problems.

3)Seasonal shifts from winter to summer, and spring to fall, combined with the moist, hot and humid weather, can cause them to molt more frequently depending on how extreme the weather shifts are for them in the specific areas in which they reside. Depending on where you live, such as in some areas like the Mediterranean or other semi-tropical locations, there can be two molts per year, but if the weather is erratic, sometimes there will be three molts. However, if their environment is kept dry and similar to what they would encounter in their wild habitat, and if they eat a proper diet and maintain appropriate habitat conditions, they typically only molt once per year.

4)Sometimes, mites, fleas, or other parasites can be an issue. Suppose they are digging incessantly, and the skin is red and inflamed. In that case, this can signal that a flea or mite might be an issue that requires veterinary intervention and proper administration of ivermectin (DO NOT USE REVOLUTION) dosed out based on weight. BE SURE YOU'VE CONFIRMED they are dealing with a flea or other parasite before taking veterinary steps by naturally trying to remove the flea by using a flea comb. If removing with the comb is unsuccessful, administer ONE bath. Ensure the room is warm and draft-free, use warm water, have a dryer-warmed towel and supplies ready in advance, and use gentle baby shampoo, concentrating your efforts on the neck, groin, and armpit areas. More about fleas, parasites, and bathing can be found in other sections of this website.

5)Sometimes, cage mates can excessively barber or groom each other, making their coat condition poor. Monitor your prairie dogs for excessive grooming and separate them if the coat loss becomes too extreme or if they cause surface wounds from getting obsessive about the behavior. Otherwise, they can look patchy from grooming too much as they age, as their coat isn't as robust as a young pup, and their fur can deteriorate as they hit old age (think of senior canines and their fur when they are very old). Incessant barbering from cage mates where there may be minor abrasions from the overgrooming action can sometimes also bring bacterial problems that require veterinary attention.

6)Pups will also experience one major coat change from their pup fur to an adult coat sometime before their first autumn.

7)Overbathing a prairie dog is often a large cause of skin and coat problems. Prairie dogs, if fed and housed correctly per the guidelines in the information you are receiving on this website, should only need a bath maybe once or twice a year maximum; and only if they have been excessively urinated on, have diarrhea or another contributing factor to necessitate the bath. Baths must be handled a specific way, and it is best to contact us for free consultation for the best approach to this, not to stress your beloved pet. Note that only certain mild products should be used, such as one dime-sized amount of Johnson's infant/baby shampoo for sensitive skin, being careful to avoid the head. Ensure the environment is kept warm and isn't drafty; use warm towels fresh from the drier once you are finished to avoid chilling them. Be prepared with all of the items you need ready and available before taking on the task to keep the event as short and stress-free as possible.

Please note that coat regrowth timing following neuters, spays, and other surgeries where fur is shaved for their procedure often coincides with each prairie dog's unique annual molt cycle, health history, and individual metabolism. It is not uncommon for fur regrowth to take months to fill in. As long as there isn't a contributing factor noted above complicating their case, their coat will return in time.

Still have questions on this topic, please contact us.

All prairie dogs pictured below were experiencing what is considered a normal seasonal molt for their specific age, diet, habitat, metabolism, and health history. None below are impacted by barbering, parasites, or other diagnosed skin conditions.

prairie dog shedding pd pet molt skin coat
prairie dog shedding pd pet molt skin coat
prairie dog shedding pd pet molt skin coat
prairie dog shedding pd pet molt skin coat
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