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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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Squirrel

My vet said it's an exagerated breeder myth that people use so they can keep their long-haired dogs long-haired in the heat or in hotter climates. People think too much about apperance and not enoguh about the animal. My groomer and vet both agreed to shaving my chow-mix. He won't go outside for more than the bathroom if he has a coat thicker than an inch in the summer, but once it's shaved he'll run outside for hours. Sometimes it grows back like cotton and sometimes it grows back like silk. As long as he's happy, I'm happy. I recieved a rescue shihtzu whose whole body was a mat and now I shave him myself regularly or he jsut lays on the tile panting all the time. Now the little guy runs head-long into tall grasses, gets excited for walks and spends plenty of time digging in his sandbox and playing fetch.

Carole

SOOOO, this article didn't tell me much....what dogs should "NOT" be clipped and what dogs "SHOULD" be clipped????

Carol

No! Go to the groomers and have their hair cut, if you will. Think of it this way, you have your hair cut and shave your head. See? There is a big difference. Our old cocker goes to the dog barber more often in the summer and has his hair clipped closer and the longer hair on the bottom trimmed way back. I would never shave him, and as for my GSD, do way. We use what I think of as a dethatcher for her, although she LOVES her pool - odd for a GSD but true. Please, please keep in mind the difference between (hair) cut and (head) shaved.

Cindy

It is not a good idea to clip any breed that has a double coat,such as a Collie, or Samoyed. When you clip this type of coat down you leave a fuzzy undercoat at the surface and have removed the shiny top coat. In the case of the Samoyed, they will often look pink, as the skin might even show through. If you shave this type of coat, it should ONLY be due to such severe neglect that there is no way to comb the pet out, which does sadly happen sometimes.
THAT SAID, there is nothing wrong with giving a poodle a shorter summer cut, or even lhasas or shih-tzu. Many owners find that their pets are more comfortable that way. If you do clip your pet short. Generally, regardless of coat length, if the coat is well brushed and combed the air will get to the skin and the pet will be fine. It is when owners allow matts to form and undercoats to become solid pelts that pets suffer.

sandra

I disagree with the article. I see our local coyotes who shed most of their winter coats each summer. I think dogs like Chows have unnaturally heavy coats and really suffer in the summer heat. Just leave enough fur for sun protection.

Holli griggs

My coated German Shepherd is 100% happier w more energy and less panting when I shave her down in the summer months ...when not shaved she is miserable so I do not agree w this info ...

Sharon

remember sidewalks and streets are very hot. Pads can burn and cause alot of pain. When in doubt check it out with your own pads you'll be surprised how hot it really is, your pup will thank you

Sharon

remember sidewalks and streets are very hot. Pads can burn and cause alot of pain. When in doubt check it out with your own pads you'll be surprised how hot it really is, your pup will thank you

Donna M

Thank you for some eye-opening and important information!! I didn't know this and last summer and this summer I just had my cockapoo and pom shaved. I"ve only had both dogs for the past two years,,,I won't be doing this shaving again though since the ASPCA and many vets DO know what they're talking about. Keep bringing us important news like I this, I really appreciate it greatly.

Patricia Zimmer

Bad advice to say that no dogs should be shaved, my sister had an American Eskimo for 15 yrs. and it seemed Tundra panted from puppyhood until he passed away; summer, winter, and every day inbetween. I would not like to sweat every day, even when doing nothing for my entire life. I have a Keeshond mix who is now 10 yrs. old and he sports a gorgeous coat in the fall and winter but he is absolutely miserable when it gets hot here in NJ. Even with airconditioning he pants and pants; I shave his coat off every summer and he is a different boy, so happy, makes all kinds of funny noises; runs around; jumps up on the sofa and rolls on his back making such gleeful happy sounds and the look in his eyes is not a stressful one anymore once that heavy coat comes off; are you cooler in a heavy coat in the summer? My poor sister's dog was miserable every summer and he did not do happy dog things! American Eskimos and Keeshonds are not dogs that are happy with heavy coats on in 100 degree temps and they are definitely not cooler.

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