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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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 ...


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


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.

margo alexander

Animals are not human. Don't shave them. That's more for your benefit than theirs. Leave the animals alone.


I too believed you should never shave (or clip closely) any dog. That was until I rescued an Afghan Hound. Florida in the summer is not the place for an Afghan (or at least the one I had). I had to clip her down because of mats and the difference in her was unbelievable, she was so happy and active instead of just laying there panting and not eating. She was an indoor dog most of the time but loved cold weather when she was in her element.


Have both labador and alaskan husky. Labador lays on the cement in 90 degree weather and Husky sits in front of fan when hot. Neither dog seems to want to come in during the heat but very anxious to come in when a storm comes in. Also, have a kiddie pool that neither seems to wants to go in, but they do like that ice water.


I have a senior citizen long haired Chihuahua/Papillion and he is honestly happier when we shave him. His fur is so long and thick he gets overheated easily, pants excessively and tries to cool down on the tile floor. When he is shaved during the summer months he is able to sit closer to us without overheating, spends more time outdoors and seriously has more energy. When we shave him it's like we have a puppy and not an older guy.