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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.

Comments

Comments

It is very important to keep your pet groomed and clean. However, good judgement must be used when it comes to shaving a dog's coat. I have grooming salon and customers come in regularly complaining about how hot their dog is and they want them shaved for summer. I counsel with them and give them my best advice. First of all, my shop will NEVER shave a dog to the skin (say #10 blade). We refuse to do it. We will recommend a longer shave, maybe a #5. This works well for retrievers, labs, short coat dogs. When you talk about Siberians, Pyrenees, dogs with double coats, you would never shave them - this calls for a Furminator Shed Less treatment and a nice trim. The dogs look fabulous afterward. Smaller dogs like Maltese, Shih Tzus, etc. should get a regular grooming as they would any other time of the year, maybe just a little shorter. PLEASE consider your pets feelings first before yours when making a decision about their summer cut. Happy Tails, Ranger Rita

Betsy Brower

I have always been a purist about NOT shaving dogs with thick coats, but recently I saw my employer's dog before and after shaving (he is a large breed that has HAIR and not fur) and it was clear to me that he is much more comfortable now, post shaving. He comes to work every day with us and he is more active, and playful and doesn't pant nearly as much as before. Interestingly, he enjoys being petted by humans more now because he can actually FEEL our hands and we feel like we are actually petting a dog and not a mop!

To all on this board: we live in the southwest. It is over 100 every day for at least 4 months in the summer. Either don't buy a dog that is meant for pulling dog sleds or doing work in Germany, upstate NY or Canada, or make sure he is comfortable. That may require shaving. And to the person who claimed that a woman with long thick hair doesn't get hotter in summer-um-wrong, buddy. I am one of those women. I have the salon thin the heck out of my hair and trust me, it is MUCH COOLER. Obviously, I'm not shaving my head!

Mel

Ok this article has me a little concerned now and I think I need some clarification no matter how stupid this question may be. I have three miniature schnauzer and groom them about three times a year with the basic schnauzer cut. They seem a lot happier and active without their long coats. Am I harming my dogs or does this type of cut not fall into the category of what the article is talking about? They stay inside most of the day and I only walk them in the evening after sundown. Thanks in advance!

Melissa

Because your dogs are not a double coated breed, putting them into their breed cut doesn't harm them. Just watch out for sunburn if you get the backs done super short!! Do remember that all pets benefit from regular grooming and as a groomer I recommend you have them done every six to eight weeks instead of three times a year, but how often you take them entirely depends on how much brushing and maintenance you do at home.

Marykay Ligocki

We had some neighbors in IL who shaved all their Old English sheepdogs one summer thinking they were being nice. They immediately all over-heated and a couple died. The owners were heart-broken. Afterwards, they cut the hair short in the summer, but left a couple inches near the skin.

E H

We live by Lake Mi which is all sand..I buy all the flea treatments avialable and still he is full of them constantly..so i did shave my terrier..and now I keep vitamin E oil on his hotspots where he obsessivly bites and itches at..What else can I do?

Carol Buchanan

As a veterinarian, I disagree. I have had many dogs clipped/shaved over the years and no problems have occurred. The vast majority are inside pets so spend very little time outside anyway. It does appear to make them feel friskier and act younger and greatly improves skin condition and ease of treatment if needed. There are less issues with fleas and ticks, and I have never seen a maggot infestation on a shaved dog, only on overgrown matted ones. Certainly, you should not shave a long-haired breed and place him in a yard with no shade. But neither should you do that with any pet! So, my advice is to shave and clip in the summer. In our Texas climate, this makes for a much more comfortable pet.

marvelous

I think this vet is just full of it.ASPCA should do a little home work before letting someone that tries to make it seem like they know something write a column. Not the first time. Don't believe all you hear from anyone, oh except me, LOL. My black Portie acts, feels and is much better and happier with her hair shorter in 100 degree heat and if she ever has hair mats that I can't get out with a comb or brush I cut her hair and it is fine. As for cancer the main cause is pet food not sun. Obviously be careful about being out in the heat and clean non-chlorinated, non-fluoridated water. Chlorine causes cancer too. My dogs it RAW and they are they healthiest dogs (10 yrs. old)you will ever see. Oh, you don't have to have rotten dog teeth or dentists or almost any vet bills with a RAW bones diet. And your dog doesn't have to have surgery on it's ACL tears. They repair themselves. Vets are increasingly controlled by big PHARM. And forget the itching, needless vaccinations (have to do rabies and parvo but that is all) and expensive diets. Oh, forget chewing on stuff other than raw bones. Happy, happy, happy.

I noticed that somehow, the discussion about pet grooming devolved into a debate about polictics and money. But nobody has yet brought up another divisive topic: religion. What would Saint Francis say?

Sue

I do shave my dog in the summer per my vet's advise. He gets what is termed "hot spots" and they are horrible for him and me. So yes.......it is good to shave your dog in some instances.

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