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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.

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Dawn

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!

Jimmie

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.

barbara

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.

Betsy Brower

I used to have a cat who got heavy when she was old (lived to 21) and seriously, I used to vacuum her. She loved it! Would come running when she heard me turn it on. Go figure...

Amy

I agree with Tara! I'm a groomer as well, and one thing a lot of people forget about is the difference between a dogs undercoat and guard coat. The guard coat works sorta like a t-shirt while the undercoat is more like a sweater, when you shave off the guard coat, it's like you're leaving the sweater and cutting off the T. When this is done, the undercoat outgrown the guard coat and actually becomes thicker and denser, plus, that beautiful slick, soft guard coat could be ruined and never grow back again properly. I see it all the time and many people refuse to accept its because they shave their dog. If its done for medical reasons/matts, that's a completely different story obviously.

Amy

THAT'S why a de-shedding treatment is so key!

Ann Longmore

I have a Chow-Chow, Golden mix and the for the last 3 summers have gotten him shaved in the early Spring and again in late Summer -- and he is ecstatic when groomed! I watch him carefully when out during the day to see how he is dealing with the heat and check his skin. But he has never gotten sun burn or suffered any adverse reaction to the grooming. Quite the reverse. I am just sorry that I listened to the standard advice for so many year.

John R

I tried cutting my Shetland Collie's fur when I noticed he couldn't keep up with me on normal walks. It proved to be very INeffective so I never tried it again.

Peaceful touch ...

i do agree that you should not shave the double coated breeds, but as a pet groomer of 30 years, i see the most uncomfortable pets, please talk to your groomer,, if your pet has matts wether it is a cat, or a poodle mix, you must give your pet relief, when the matting is tight to the skin, it should be removed, to not only help with the heat, but to let the skin breath, not to mention the skin problems that can happen, some simple tips....brush your pet once a week, always brush before bathing or swimming, the key is to brush so that it feels more like a massage, rather than a tugging session, and have treats in hand, your pet will not only be cooler, but also cleaner, as you brush all the debree out of there coat.

Tracey

While I have the greatest respect for the ASPCA and their advice usually, I have to disagree on this point. I have a long-haird Chihuahua, a Siberian Husky and a Border Collie, all of whom get shaved as short as possible for summer. Granted, the are only outdoors in the sun when I am out with them, so the chances of sunburn are slight and we have a shaded patio and yard for their comfort, but they are so much cooler and less restless when their coats are shaved. I see people walking in 100-degree heat with Chow and husky dogs that can hardly breathe, they are so hot, and it's because of advice like this that they are suffering. My dogs lie comfortably in their dog beds, free of all the heat and panting, and the humans are better off for having less hair in the environment as well.

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