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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

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.

fuckyouall

I buzz off all the hair I can on all 5 dogs from wolf too chow and they are soo much happier and cooler!!! No place for ticks and fleas too hide!!! Just dont let em get sunburned!!! Even my cats love too clean up for summer!!!! Dont trust what these jerks say... try it yourself!!! No more piles of hair all over the house!!!! Try wearing insulation too cool yourself!!!!

monique

The breeder that gave me my dog a poodle told me that because my dog's hair is black its hotter for her so what I do I always try to keep it trimmed and clean!!!

Kate C

I am not a groomer, but a dog trainer, so I work with a LOT of dogs. I have met people whose Huskies have gotten heat stroke after their vet shaved them down without the owner's permission. Personally my dogs don't warrant shaving, but I do brush them a lot more in the summer to get rid of any extra hair. Of all the Huskies I meet in sunny Southern California, I have found that most are just fine so long as you brush them daily and use the Furminator or similar deshedder every 4 weeks. You just have to get rid of the undercoat. However, in ANY breed, those that don't get brushed enough or are OVERWEIGHT (or have other health problems) cannot regulate their internal temperature and therefore they do need to be clipped, but left with as much hair as possible. As for sunblock, GNC sells a pet-specific natural sunblock at PetSmart. Idk about any other pet sunblocks.

Susan

I rescued a Greyhoud 6 yrs. ago. She's now 8. Her coat, what there is of it, is strawberry blond. Being that Greys have little hair and some places are bald, I apply Sunscreen EVERY time we go outside.

Samantha

as a dog groomer, I have had this conversation with pet parents many times. For the most part, I agree with the ASPCA and never ever recommend shaving thick double coated dogs such as huskys, chows, or shepards. In many cases the hair does not grow back normally and it does remove their cooling insulation. I do however strongly recommend regular brushing especially for situations where the dog is blowing coat. That being said, for long haired dogs I do recommend shaving into a pet cut for maintenance reasons. If pet parents are not doing daily brushing for their long-haired friend, the increase in summer activities makes matting a genuine concern. However, if you do decide to shave your pet, sunscreen is a MUST when they are outdoors. You wouldn't let your child play outside without sunscreen, it is no different for your pet. And as an aside to the pet parents that notice a happier change in behavior after a shave- this could be for a multitude of reasons not attributed to heat levels. The grooming process is a pampering one and it is our job, no matter what the cut, to make your pet feel more comfortable after their spa day is done. Think of how great you feel after a manicure and blow out. Not to mention the fact that long or thick coated dogs may be masking a skin irritation due to dirt and grime in their coats. They are thoroughly scrubbed, brushed, manicured and loved at the salon. Wouldn't that put a little pep in your step too :)

Tanya

I have a Pekingese and if I let her hair grow especially in hot weather she mopes around and won't do anything. Once she is shaved she is like a brand new dog racing around and very active. Also when I let her hair grow she gets fleas really bad where if she is shaved there are none. Everytime I took her to be groomed she had to have flea baths and now she is free of fleas. No more skin conditions. Alot of dogs are taken out of their natural habitat where weather conditions are different than what they were bred for so I don't agree with not shaving some breeds.

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