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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

kat

Have 2 fluffly breeds and I clip them yearly. I don't go down to the skin, so no sunburn issues. I've done this for years regardless of the back and forth on clipping. Why? because it appears to be what's best for my animals. The long hair on my dogs picks up every twig/sticky seed, etc in the yard, sheds all over the house, etc. Do I brush them? Yes. Are they clean? Yes. Do I overwash them and destroy natural oils? No. And as for tick protection, I've had ticks burrow into long hair and you don't see them until they are engorged. On shorter hair they stand out. Just like on our heads. When in a tick area during tick season, I keep my animals clipped and my hair pulled back. As for climate and coat blow-out. Another thing to consider is that we breed for certain types of coats and this can cause the animal to retain a coat that it would normally (if left in undomesticated wild-state) blow out. Also, our pets don't have the same lifestyle as a wild animal. they don't have coats evolved for the environment in which they live and they don't always have the luxury of digging a hole in the dirt so they can lie in cooler ground. We domesticated them, we bred them for looks and/or abilities, we have to deal with the artificiality of their biology.

So I put this down to show dog stuff. Can't alter the coat unless it's supposed to be clipped into some shape for "the standard." And I've (personally) never had the coat not grow back exactly the way it looked preshave. And I don't know of anyone else who has shaved their pets and not had the coat grow back. Something tells me if the coat grows back differently, then something was off before you shaved the animal. And I've rescued a couple dogs, taken to the vet and the vet has recommended shaving. Those coats grew back too. Oh, the breeds I've shaved are: Malamute, Aussie, Border Collie, shi tzu (spelling?), retriever,parsons, and a couple mixed breeds. And they are all much peppier when I get the hair off of them in 90 degree heat.

PS. If you don't like "Global Warming" use the term "Global Climate Change." From ice cores we can tell global cooling and warming trends durning the planet's history and yes, we should be going into a cooling trend, but we are not going into any regime quite the way it's been done in the past (that we can see.) We are slamming into a climate change that's unprecidented in its scope and speed. And we are going into it without the aid of massive volcanic eruptions (seriously, the ones we have are miniscule) and without asteroids, etc. From long term data collections it is the human race that has, from the time we seriously started burning fossil fuels, changed the climate. In a couple decades, this yes/no arguement will be moot, as most of the coastal populations will be dealing with flooding disasters that will wipe away any doubt of the nature of the future of this planet's climate.

Maryann

We have a Westie that we have groomed every 4 weeks all year long (clipped not stripped) and our groomer clips him a bit shorter in the summer. He seems more comfortable in the summer after a grooming but we also don't let him outdoors very much in hot weather. Pet parents know their pets best. We rely on professionals to guide us but pet parents generally know what is best for their pet.

Sheila Hartley

We clipped our collie mix last year in florda and he got a skin infection.. Not a Good Idea !!

Kelly

I was wondering about mixed breed dogs. You say their coat protects them in summer from the heat, but how about mixed breeds who's coat might not be proper for the dog. We have a 1/2 corgi tri-color mix rescue. He looks 100% corgi though. His mixed breed father is a big dog with long fur, his mother a short haired tri-color corgi. Our corgi ended up with his father's long hair. We like to give our corgi short haircuts in summer, as otherwise, he lays around all day, in the cool house, panting, and is lethargic. When we give him a short haircut, he's jumping on the couch with us, smiling, tossing his toys around, etc. Giving him a short haircut makes him act like a puppy again. When his hair is left alone, he acts like Queen Victoria in her later years. So with a full breed, I would leave the hair alone, but I think when we mix up the genes in our dogs, they sometimes end up with a feature that's not right for them.

joanna

We have a beautiful little Havanese, & for those who aren't familiar w/ the breed, they are descended from Lhaso's & Bijons, so they have hair & not fur. We always keep her in a puppy cut. However, in the summer, we do cut her down very short. She seems happier. But it also makes it easier for us to keep her clean - when she comes in fr the yard, she isn't full of knots, she isn't as dirty & it's much easier to check for tics. She's an inside dog. She's never outside alone, in fact she'll only stay in the yard if we're out there w/ her. She'll generally run around a few times & then she'll plop herself down on a cool patch of grass under the shade of our big tree & stay there. If we're out in the yard for any length of time, we put water out for her. We also carry water for her if we walk her in hot weather. We have NEVER had her shaved!

Linda B

I have a Siberian cat... he is mostly indoors and I know his coat changes with seasons... any recommendations on giving him a cut?

dana9

I don't think it's fair to call the article "thoughtless misinformation." It just needs to be more specific as to how short the coat can be clipped. For long-haired dogs in summer, leaving a couple of centimeters will give them enough protection from the sun; leaving their hair full-length holds IN body heat, and body temperature is nearly always higher than air temperature.

Nancy

There is a difference between shaving and clipping, so a lot of theses comments on this thread make absolutely no sense!

rugbymom

I get my Cavalier King Charles completely clipped in the summer and she loves it! It keeps her cool, tick and burr free. I know when her coat gets too long because she goes to sleep on the cold bathroom floor instead of my bed.

kristy

I'm conflicted on this, while I do see the danger of sunburn, no one can convince me that an animal solely created by man with man's best interest in mind is comfortable and "works" like it should. Why would a husky have natural insulation from san fransisco heatwaves? They were bred for hundreds of years for COLD WEATHER, same with a LOT of other breeds, we bredc them for specific areas of the world and then years later decided to move them around, it doesn't make sense that it always works out so that the dog never ever ever has to be shaved.

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