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.



Scott Burke

Hello -- many thanks to you and to Dr. Murray for the advice. Still, I have an additional question: what about getting your dog wet? Does a full wet-down assist with the evaporative cooling process, or does doing so on a full coat actually inhibit the insulative properties of the coat? In other words, if we're going to try to keep them cool, should we limit the wetting to the belly and other areas where the skin is more exposed? Thank you.


Dogs are what they are today because we HUMANS created them to meet our needs and expectations. The argument that they evolved with a fur coat of a particular is not relevant to this convsersation.


I wish they would have sent this out at the BEGINNING of the summer! I have a long-hair chihuahua (just got him a few months ago) and thought I was doing the right thing by getting him shaved (not all the way down of course) since he seemed to be getting so hot in just minutes outside. He seems to be fine outside, in fact he loves it, now but I will be sure to just trim him next time.


I'm a groomer and I have to say I agree with this article. It is not saying you can't trim down your dog, just dont take away the double layers. I've been grooming for a long time and over the years I've had corgis, newfies, goldens, old English sheepdogs, German shepards, labs, huskies, malamutes, the list goes on and on. I have seen some that come back after a shave and their coats look alright just a little coarser, and then there are those that come back and their hair never grew back in in some patches. When you take a labs coat away it interrupts the shedding cycle and can actually clog their pores. I've had more customers come back telling me it was a horrible idea and that they're sorry they ever did it. Sure they seem happy for a while but as they get older they have a harder time regenerating their coat. Just saying if you brush your dog and really get down to the skin with your combs and coat rakes you're removing that excess hair that on longer coated breeds can collect and turn to matting which also traps any moisture underneath and can cause those nasty hot spots. Just speaking from experiencing first hand some pets are fine but most often experience more problems. Just take some time out of the day and brush your dog. It's a great bonding experience and most dogs appreciate the attention. If you go out and bring home a dog that you know required daily brushing then you have no one to blame but yourself if you're not doing what's required of you as their caretaker. It keeps them cooler and helps alleviate the hair on your furniture. Don't shave unless you have a medical reason for it!


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!!


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."


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.


... 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.