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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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amazing

That was very well said if only we could get people to understand it and understand that medical experts have came to these conclusions someway somehow. It's not a conspiracy!

Phyllisa DeSarno

I have had a good number of dogs and cats in my life time. Also, I live very near Cornell University's Vet School. Here is what I have followed over the years:

Never shave a dog or cat down to the skin, but give them a shorter clipping of fur/hair in very warm weather. I currently have a standard poodle and I can certainly see his relief when his long curly coat gets a good trim for the summer. My former pet was a English Cocker/Boston mix and she lived to be 19 years old...she was always given a shorter clipping in summer. Most important...lots of fresh water (no chlorine), exercise in early morning or later evening, keep them where it is cooler all day, and DO NOT LEAVE THEM IN THE CAR/TRUCK for any reason. Good Luck!!

Angie

I had always heard that clipping was bad for dogs. When I went to work for a vet in Florida & asked him about it, his reply was "then why does it work?? The dogs feel better & don't get hot spots."

Jannelle

So ... is the article saying no dogs should ever be clipped? I.E. Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, etc? Just let their hair grow as it naturally does?

Dee B,

I think what the ASCPA is trying to get people to understand is use common sense, if you know your animal especially ones who have longer coats then use commonsense. You can trim them to a point, but their fur acts as a barrier. I had a border collie who I did trim a little, but due to her Asthma could only go outside in the extreme heat in the early mornings or late evenings when temperatures went down. I also kept her brushed every other day. She lived to be 18 years old.

I do the same with our cats now, I keep them brushed out and don't let them outside in extreme heat and I change water for them during the day also. I also help out two feral cats outside by giving them shelter via a cardboard box in the shade and use keep our garage open a little with a outside fan going with cold water in several places everyday.

Just like with Humans in the extreme weather conditions, you limit your time outside or you dress for it and keep yourselves hydrated and people with Asthma are told to stay indoors and cooler during these times. It's just Common Sense.

DaveC

... than someone with a degree in veterinary medicine is astounding.

We have a frisky, active 14-yo Siberian Husky that has lived in Texas her whole life, and has never been shaved, because it's unhealthy. She loves to lie out in the sun in 110 degree weather. At least once a week in the summer, someone asks why she isn't shaved and we explain the difference between dogs and humans.

Instead of saying things like "Uncle Billy Joe Jim Bob always shaved his dog and it loved it" why don't you listen to the experts? Pet dogs live nearly twice as long as canids in the wild, and it's due to veterinary science and good husbandry practices, not what Uncle Billy thought.

linda

I shave my pekingese because of a skin condition ....and he is very happy and content. In the winter, he has sweaters. I had an Akita, until he died of old age, that I shaved and groomed like a Lion and he was so content to have most hair off. I have a pomeranian mix, and he loves to be shaved down in the summer. It is a lot of work, but my babies are much happier. The swim in the pool with us, lay on floaties and enjoy the weather without all that huffing and puffing. And before you mention them in the pool, no, we do not let them stay out there and get sunburned. They cool off with us in the water and go back in the air conditioned house content and happy. Poodles have been getting shaved for years....I have rescued animals all my life and depending on their health needs, when necessary, will groom and shave them. Thank you

Paula

Shaving? Obviously, any animal or human will sunburn if you shave them down to the skin, but I interpret shaving in this regard to mean a very close clipping, leaving a very short coat on the animal. In this case, there is NO WAY an animal can possibly sunburn. There's still a layer of fur covering the skin! And IF this really was true, every short haired dog that is kept as an outside dog would be sunburned. The suggestion is preposterous. I truly have to wonder about Dr. Louise Murray's common sense (Senior Vice President of ASPCA Bergh Memorial Hospital!?) in writing this article. All northern breeds, Huskies, Malamutes, Keeshonds, etc were bred for life in a climate where summers are short and winters are long and harsh. If you bring a dog like that, any dog with a heavy coat, into a different climate zone, it can't possibly be comfortable in any summer's heat in the lower 48, let alone this summer scorcher. You have to think about each breed's origin and function, their level of fur insulation's purpose, and make them comfortable accordingly. Would anyone expect a Pit Bull to live outside through an Alaskan winter? Of course not, they're just not made for that climate. So why would you expect a dog with tons of fur to be alright in a warmer climate? The arguement that the fur is insulating against the heat is as ridiculous as wearing a sweater to keep yourself cool. There is NO LOGIC in this. If there was, nature would demand thick summer coats to protect animals from the heat, but instead, they SHED! HELLO?! Ya think there may be some reason for that? Living bodies produce heat. You trap the heat in the winter with a coat to keep yourself warm. You remove layers in the summer to allow your body heat to escape. Fur (insulation) doesn't let body heat escape. Why do so many men shave their heads in the summer? If it was cooler to have all that hair, they sure wouldn't be getting rid of it!! Humans -who can talk- can explain this thermal dilemma. Do you think it's any different for dogs and cats? PLEASE. I can't believe that this isn't understood and that an article like this would even be written by anyone, let alone a veterinarian and an ASPCA professional!!!! All the people who wrote about how happy their dogs are after being clipped aren't crazy. A cool dog is a happy dog. A hot dog is a miserable dog.

Kim

Paula, are you a qualified expert on the actual body functions of all animal species? I have used the Vets at the Bergh Memorial Hospital in NYC for 20 years. Not only are they the cream of their crop, but they are animal lovers, no less than you. And they are qualified experts on animals: they treat an enormous range of animals and work with as many varieties of pet owners. They don't offer anectodal advice based on the logic of lay "pet whisperers". Their advice is based on more years of study, school, and practical experience than is required of doctors who treat only one species, humans. Do you really think anyone should choose your advice over theirs? Really? Please don't contradict these authentic PROFESSIONALS. Because there are a lot of ignoramuses who read these posts and choose the advice that most suits their tiny world view and personal needs, further harming their pets. And if you really want to compare dogs to people, think about this: An alcoholic may seem "happy" and "feel good" when they're drinking, but are they healthy? Are they really happy?

amazing

Please never talk about anyone else's intelligence ever again. A. Short haired dogs skin is more used to the sun & made to be safely exposed to the sun. B. How could you compare a human to a dog? We lose our heat through our heads so for someone to be cooler when they shave their head would be exceptable. We also sweat. Dogs don't do either.

If you say such ignorant things it makes you look foolish and so you have absolutely no legit arguement and aure as heck should not questions this vet's intelligence. These people have actually done experiments and teats to come to these conclusions. What have you done to provide a legitimate rebuttal? NOTHING. GROW UP & don't ever judge someone again because you're in no better standing. Also, educate yourself please.

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