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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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margo alexander

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

Charlene

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.

lincre

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.

Sierra

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.

Patricia Zimmer

Dear Margo thank you for letting us know that dogs are not human. I will continue to shave my Keeshond mix in the summer as he is sooo miserable with the top coat and the thick undercoat that he sometimes does not even want to eat, and when I shave that coat off of him in the summer the fur is actually HOT underneath and my dog immediately transitions from a miserable, uncomfortable being to a happy, bouncy, wanting to play, eat and every other good thing dog. When a dog is doing nothing but panting (sweating) and you can do something about his/her comfort then use your head and stop believing old wives tales; the proof is in the pudding!!!!!! My dog is now a happy camper with his fur off in the summer and it back on in the winter. I know when my dog is happy and when he is miserable!

My daughter always wants to shave down my dogs or her own. She did have a St. Bernard (now deceased). I had a Springer and now have my mother's dog Cock-a-poo. I don't like the close shave but she doesn't listen to me at 50 years old.
As for the poor SPELLING of words, if you are going to print something publicly, CHECK YOUR SPELLING!! I am a retired secretary and proof-reading is an occupational hazard of mine. It really is annoying to try to read something with many spelling and/or GRAMMAR errors. Get your acts together and either buy a paper dictionary or use spell-check! Thank you very much.

Janie Webb

Remember--your dog can't sweat. Long hair coats ARE similar to us wearing our winter coat outdoors in the summer. Sorry, I can't agree with the "insulated from the heat" idea. I owned an Airedale for 15 years and she LOVED her hair cuts and her baths. Light/medium colored dogs DO need sunburn protection. Ticks work their way thru long hair--no protection there. If your dog is inside in the A/C most of the time, don't worry about a summer haircut. If you have a dog with a long, darker coat living most of his/her life outside, CUT THE HAIR. It will grow back out by the cooler fall weather. I have a degree in animal health and worked for a vet for several years. This was his advice to his clients.

Mich

I have been shaving my Pom Jack into a lion cut since he was one . He is now 8 ...healthy,happy and beautiful! He is adorable and is groomed every four weeks with zero issues .

Luann Chandler

This article is a bunch of baloney! Of course animals who live in the wild should keep whatever coat they have, but animals who live in our AC'd homes, need to be clipped to be comfortable and to be able for their owners to see and tend to tick or mosquito bites. Baloney! for sure.

KP

I see a lot of argument on grooming dogs, not so much on cats. I hate to say it but some animals just need to be shaved down (and to be specific I'm talking about a 10# length, which is very short but not a surgical 40# clip). I have one cat out of four that has a very thick coat for a shorthair, and in spite of baths and brushing and his own grooming which he falls terribly short on, he's always a filthy mess and EVERYONE is much happier with him shaved down twice or thrice a year. His risk of sunburn is low to nonexistent indoors, he never goes outside, and the temperature indoors is kept regulated, so why not make everyone mre cofortable and just remove that hair? It always grows back the same so that's not even a concern of mine at this time - and even if it weren't going to grow back the same, it doesnt matter because he's kept short year-round anyway.

I think everyone who's freaking out about grooming policies needs to calm down and take everytyhing on a case-by-case basis.

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