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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

Melissa

I have a golden retriever and I work at a grooming shop. living in tx there are terrible burrs. I have had him clipped/shaved. not down to the skin mind you but clipped short enough to where i can manage the burrs in his hair. he only goes outside long enough to potty and roll once or twice, lol.But that is enough to get burrs caught in his hair and sometimes they have to be cut out so clipping him in the summer is a good choice for us. he seems to feel better after having his hair cut.

Carrie

I completely disagree with this article. As a groomer of 12 years and having groomed in different climates I absolutely feel that removing that thick coat during hot summer months helps our furry friends. Many of these dogs originate in cool climates and their coats are designed to protect them from snow. While I personally have no preference as to wether I spend my day blowing out long coats or stripping them short I based my opinion off years of seeing pets respond positively to getting rid of their thick coats and hearing owners tell me "Wow I wasn't sure clipping the hair off would help but my pet was SO HAPPY and I could tell was much cooler after being shaved." I think too many dogs suffer in hot climates and I think it's sad. You will need to put sunblock on your pet for the first two weeks after being clipped but then he will have enough coat to protect his skin. Always provide shade and water for our furry friends and y'all stay cool

Carol

I'm sorry I have to disagree here with the vet, I know shearing down to the skin in the middle of summer with an outside dog would allow the dog to overheat and sunburn, but I know for a fact they are more comfortable with the hair off, down to say 1/2". There energy level is so much better and they are cooler. I also have llamas here in TX and I will tell you it is animal abuse to not shear them, watching one die of heat stress is terrible, because the owner has not sheared it early in the year. They cool themselves much like dogs, foot pads and open mouthed breathing. They need some hair to protect the skin and keep the sun off the skin, but saying they (llama or dog)need all that long hair causes summer to be the worst kind of season for any animal with long hair. Brushed or not, undercoat removed or not. If it does not grow back to it's original glory and that bothers a person, perhaps they need a shorter haired dog in the first place, or just make sure their dogs have AC 24/7 during the hot months, they will still probably be hot but not miserable.

Deb

I live in Texas and I have my Lab shaved every summer. Not so short he looks like a "hair-do gone wrong", but just enough to shorten the coat and keep him cool. He loves it and I do it about every 6-8 weeks in the summer. It really cuts down on the shedding when he is in the house during the summer months. In the winter his coat comes back full and keeps him warm when he swims in the freezing water.

deb

Since when is it 102.5 degrees outside which is a dog's body temp. It is insulating the dog's heat in and not allowing radiant cooling or not alonging the water to the skin when you wet them down. Bad advice.

Michelle Sutton

I too believed I should not shave my long haired mini doxies. Each summer they refused to do any exercise and gained weight. I took them out at 9 and 10 pm and they were still panting. As soon as I shaved them they were so much happier. We still go for walks late at night in the summer, but now they actually enjoy their walk. I may not a vet, but I am an attorney so I feel I am not a complete idiot. I think everyone has to do what is best for their dogs. My dogs are also in door dogs so no chance of sun burn or hearst stroke. Mine prefer to be shaved.

B

For the people that think their dogs are happier that they are shaved you are completely fooling yourself. You are just lazy people who do not want to brush and keep up with the beautiful coats of the breeds. Why not purchase a dog then that doesn't have a huge coat. How about purchasing a breed that is appropriate for the area you are living in, wouldn't that make more sense. I have 3 Shelties and a German Shepherd and would never think of shaving my dog's beautiful coats. That's the beauty of the breed. I don't exercise them on really hot days and I purchased a small baby pool for them and they LOVE that! I also purchase battery-operated fans that I keep in my car for them when they are with me.

Crystal W

I have a 9yr old Miniature American Eskimo Dog look-alike... her body build and fur match exactly, but she's tan not white. We shave her every summer because if not she just pants and lays around. As soon as she's all shaved she jumps right up and has all the energy of a 10wk old puppy. She's so happy and excited. Some people may not choose to shave their dogs, but I can't stand to see my baby overheated and miserable. She is a inside dog, but when we go outside she follows... so if we're working in the yard or hanging out on the porch she's right there with us.
I also have a Papillon. She doesn't need to be shaved and enjoys playing outside. I guess it all depends.

Amazed

Good go these rants and insults are pathetic. Grow up! Most of you are only here to start a fight and act better than someone else. Just because you are miserable in life doesn't make it right to take it out on people on here. Hey, if you want to shave your dog and it dies you have to live with it. I am going to take the advice I have heard for YEARS from very reputable people & locations so that I wont ever put my baby at risk. How many wild animals have fur? Yep. Their fur doesn't just protect them from the sun and over heating but also from mosquitos that pass on heartworms. People have taken animals out of their enviornment but forget where they came from and how they survived before us. Just because we have bred canines into what we want as pets doesn't mean we created a new species. They're still dogs with built in protection. Don't leave them in the heat for long periods of time, walk them very early or late, provide lots of fresh water, & let them chill out. Also, brush them daily to remove old fur and bathe them regularly to help release the fur they're trying to shed. So just because someone may have.had good luck with cutting their dog's fur doesn't make it safe for all dogs and I'm not going to risk my dog's life to save a couple minutes of cooling off. So go for it, act like a bunch of children and insult me but I did my homework years ago and have plenty of scientific proof to back it up. Insult me, it's ok. If that makes you feel better about yourself for a few minutes so be it but I it wont hurt my feelings because I am happy with myself.

bkrbabe

jeez, who would have thought that a seemingly harmless topic like pet comfort in these 'dog'days of summer would bring out such harshness and lack of tolerence in their humans.

clip not shave, don't use scissors, your dog is a dog not a human;therefore unless he/she sits up and tells you via english language it's hot and wants a cut don't treat it like you!!
what's a furminator?
i have a tiffany cat who takes care of his defurring to summer coat himself. he sheds down to his comfort zone and i would never dream of interferring.
Lighten up people there is plenty to argue about without bringing our pet's hygene into the mix!!

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