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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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?


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.


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


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.


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.


we shave our long haired cat and all of our dogs, even the short haired ones. their personalities change dramatically afterward. they appreciate the fact that the cooler air can get to their skin and become much more "alive" and playful. i wholeheartedly disagree with your leaving long hair and undercoat intact, body heat cannot escape and cooler air cannot get to the skin! if you saw the immediate and lasting difference in the activity levels and happiness of our animals, i believe that you would change your mind!!


There's a difference between a clip and a shave. I have the groomer clip my golden retriever to 1/2 to 3/4 inch. She looks like a yellow lab when done. And how she changes - Looks like a puppy,acts like a puppy, frisky and sooo playful. She has clearly been happiest these past 4 weeks in Florida with her "summer-cut". She's a house dog - walks in the AM before sunrise, for about 10 minutes at noon, and again after the sun goes down. In and out the door to do her business as needed. The sun has not been a problem for her.


My collie is shaved like a lion. So I suppose only the back half of him will be in danger of overheating. He's 10, he loves not having the woolly mess back there. He lives inside, on tile floors and with the shorter hair he has better contact with cooler surfaces. I never leave him outside unattended. Each person needs to consider their dog's lifestyle... He's on flea prevention, but it's a lot easier to see Everything (flea or tick) on the back half of him now. and I can MUCH MORE QUICKLY see a rash developing because the hair is short vs waiting for him to chew and lick it into a bad hot spot... I can catch it early now. Shaving him works for me. Each person needs to consider their lifestyle. No one piece of advice covers everyone. Now, Not Shaving and Not Maintaining is worse than Shaving and Not Maintaining. Not maintaining and brushing and bathing a long coat is necessary, and if worse things pop up because of NOT maintaining...just shave.


I have long haired cats that loved to be brushed, but I still cannot keep up with the mats they get. I cut them out, but them they have bald spots. Even with all the brushing I do they cough up a lot a fur balls. I've been getting them "lion cuts" for a few years now and they love it. I have a special fence in my mostly shaded yard made just for cats and of course a cat door so they can go in and out whenever they like. They are safe cool, and happy. I just want to point out in the right curcumstances cutting the fur is not always bad.