Heat Wave! Should You Shave Your Pet?

Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 11:45am

Nearly everywhere in America, this summer is a scorcher, and we know that as a responsible pet parent, you want to do everything you can to keep your best four-legged friends cool. So when you look at your Pomeranian, Golden Retriever or long-haired cat wearing a thick, fluffy coat, you might feel tempted to break out your grooming tools and give him a serious hair cut.

But hold those clippers! While you or I would hate to sport a fur coat in 100-degree weather, your pets’ fur coats are actually providing them with heat relief.

“A dog’s coat is kind of like insulation for your house,” explains Dr. Louise Murray, Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Hospital. “Insulation stops your home from getting too cold in winter, but it also keeps it from overheating in summer—and your dog’s coat does the same thing.”

Dogs’ coats have several layers, and these layers are essential to your dog’s comfort in the heat. Robbing your dog of this natural cooling system can lead to discomfort and overheating. And keeping your dog cool isn’t the only reason to leave his coat intact, Dr. Murray warns. Your dog’s coat prevents your pup from getting sunburn and helps protect her from skin cancer.

So what can you do? “It’s OK to trim your long-haired dog’s long hair, such as any hair that hangs down on his legs,” Dr. Murray says. Just never attempt to clip mats off your pet’s coat with scissors, Dr. Murray adds. And if you’ve got a long-haired kitty, leave her coat intact. Instead, brush her a little more frequently during the hot summer months.

To protect your pet from sunburn and skin cancer, save longer walks for evenings, and consider applying pet-specific sun block to thinly covered areas like the bridge of your dog’s nose, the tips of his ears and his belly, Dr. Murray suggests, noting that pets with thin coats, as well as those with white or light-colored coats, are especially at risk for sun damage.

Of course, pet parents should remember to keep pets inside with plenty of water during hot days—hydration is key! For more important information on summer pet care, visit our Hot-Weather Tips.




What a load of nonsense. I've been a groomer for 30 years -- Master Groomer for 15. You will NOT ruin a coat if you clip it down. I'm not talking shaving to the skin, which in most groomers' hands would be very dangerous because of uneducated "groomers" with a #10 blade and hot clippers... hello.. razor burn, which I deal with frequently. Taking a huge, heavy coat down with a MAXIMUM of a #7 blade won't hurt a thing. Done safely, responsibly and carefully, the dog won't be harmed in the least. It's the idiots out there than do it themselves with a #10 blade, or the uneducated "groomers" employed by Petco, PetSmart and the like that are the problem. Unfortunately, ASPCA frequently ALSO doesn't know what they are talking about or don't bother editing the articles without checking with an expert.


Thank you! I too have been grooming for 30+ years and could not agree with you more! It is the cookie cutter "groomers" at the chain pet stores who are careless and think the #10 blade is the answer to everything that are the problem. I found many of these comments quite aggravating!


My golden retriever is very sensitive to heat. For several years he couldn't stand to be outside in summer---pant, pant, pant. He also got hot spots which he was continually picking at.
Our vet finally recommended the "yellow retriever" hair cut. He gets this from spring through August and is now very comfortable.
He also gets no more hot spots. A hair cut has given him a vastly improved quality of life. I feel so sorry for those I see out with their masters and they are dragging along and panting so uncomfortably.

Crested mom

Say this to my two hairless Chinese cresteds.. they don't really have the option its Naked dog year round hahaha.. they do use baby sun screen when outdoors and maybe even a light tshirt if they're going to be out long to avboid sun burns.

Janet Diehl

I have an old Chow-mix with a very thick double coat. Chows evolived in Artic-Siberia area. While I found her in Florida; now we live in SW Wisconsin, but we've been having 80+ temperaters - not Artic weather!! I've tried shaving, but she still panted a lot. This year I had her washed, & her belly, ruff & rump hair cliped way back but not shaved. Likewise the groomer cliped any extra leg & foot hair, and the her ear hair. The later was a shock to see, as she looked so very different.

In the Winter I let her hair totally grow out. If she gets mats, I cut them out - using blunt tiped bandage shears & my fingers next to her body; then I gently pick apart the very last part of the mat.


Shaving your dog completely bald, and trimming your dog's coat down to 1 inch are two very different things. All this blog post is saying is that you shouldn't shave your dog down to its skin...which should never be done unless the dog is severely matted.

Don't agree with it, then shave your dog. I'm sure the ASPCA won't try to stop you. End of story.


Thank you for clarifying. This conflict appears to stem from miscommunication re: the use of grooming terms. We have had auusies (with double coats) for 14 years. One had major issues with overheating, so we asked our dogs' groomer about the pro's and con's of clipping him this spring. He carries a heavy coat. We tried clipping. He came home a different dog, a happier dog, a cooler dog. We were then able to sleep with the windows closed and no fans blowing on him all night long. Our other aussie had thyroid issues, so we would never have clipped her fur, as it might take forever to grow back. Different strokes for different folks. Discuss the issue with both your groomer and your vet. Our dog now has enough fur to protect him from the sun (which he is in occasionally) yet it is short enough for his belly to feel cool on our stone and tile floors.


Every summer I shave down my sheltie mix's hair, but partly due to the fact that I would be able to see if she had any ticks on her. I don't do it for coolness as I heard the hair actually helps keep them cool. She seems to love it though!


Our Dog was miserable until we shaved him, and don't mean he was panting a lot, he was miserable. He is a German Shepherd/Collie mix, so his hair gets pretty long. We give him a summer cut every year and he is the happiest dog in the world! And it is usually the groomer at our local vets office who does the cut, and they have never once advised against it? I'm not disputing this article, just relaying my personal experience.


I have 11 rescues (3 are persians) I have to vacuum daily and most of them do not want to be brushed. How about some advice on shaving cats - including which shavers are best/quiet etc.