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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One of my dogs is a black Standard Poodle. You can be sure that she gets her hair clipped every couple of months, no matter the season. We share our home with a BullMastiff as well. No shaving or clipping for him, unless you include claws. Our third dog is a Peruvian Hairless dog. He has hair only on the tips of his tail and his toes, and he sports a natural mohawk. His skin is warm to the touch. He can sunburn. He wears a sweater in the winter. Stays in during intense sunlight. He has no protection from cuts and scrapes or mosquito bites (except for his preventative). He is very allergic to environmental things like grass and bugs. He sometimes gets skin infections. His doctor tells us that dogs with fur would have some of the same skin flaws under their fur, but who would ever know? Anyway, nothing about a dog without fur is easy, excepts baths. Baths are a total breeze.
We once had a little dog that was a terrier mix who resembled a Pomeranian. She tangled with a skunk and large burrs. Our veterinarian suggested shaving herd Her coat was never the same again. To shave, or not to shave should be up to the pet parent and the "experts". (Just be careful to whom you grant the title.) It's hot out there during the summer!


I live in Alabama and trim my rottie and japanese chin down to 1/4" every summer(japanese chin stays trimmed due to skin problems, she wears coats in the winter). After being trimmed, they both prance. My rottie acts like a puppy again; bouncing off the walls and wagging his nub so much that his whole body wiggles. The only problem that I ever have with trimming them is when you go over certain spots, their legs start kicking and you have to wait until their legs stop before making a complete pass. I guess it depends on your dog.


I forgot to add...I save the hair and put them by my plants to keep deer away and the birds use it to make nests also.


I had my collie shaved every summer. She never had a problem with her hair growing back just as lovely as ever over 13 years.


My son & I adopted our Golden Boy right before Christmas 2 years ago. I've always had spaniels or dobies before him. My son watched Homeward Bound and had his heart set on a Golden. He was fine during the winter and part of the spring. However, as summer approached and the temperatures rose, he couldn't stop panting. Last summer, I gave him a good trim--especially his belly. He was finally able to rest without the constant panting. I partially trimmed him up again this year, but alas, I have only a regular set of human clippers. I can't wait to get the professional ones I've ordered online so he can be comfortable again. Today, the temperature here in Oklahoma City reached 107 and we won't be below triple digits until perhaps the end of next week. As I type this message, it is still 92 degrees and it is just before 11pm.
As for those of you subscribing to the Global Warming drama...It is actually "Global Change". While I understand the wish to keep the thread limited to pets, this is a possible venue to reach someone and perhaps help them to consider steps they can take to improve the state of the environment.
There are many scientific, unbiased sites you can visit to get your info. I strongly suggest avoiding any of the news sites or news papers because the information there will be biased. I recommend peer-reviewed journals to get your information. As for my belief, as an environmental scientist by trade who is engaged with a wide variety of scientists from different backgrounds and areas of expertise, you would be hard pressed to find ones who no longer believe that humans are not affecting environmental change. Will you find some who do? Of course you will. However, the majority realize through experimentation, data, and modelling that it is real. As we have played a part in the cause, we can also be a part of the solution by making concious changes in our lifestyles that are easy to make. Recycle and keep what you discard out of the waste stream. Repurpose items you no longer need by donation or changing them into something you can use. Make a compost pile and let worms eatyour vegetative waste to create an awesome soil amendment for your garden. Brush your pet's hair and put the hair out in your yard for birds to use in their nests. There is so much we can do. Every small action added together can have an enormous affect on our world.


I wonder if Dr. Louise Murray can actually quote any studies that have compared heat tolerance in shaved vs. unshaved dogs. I doubt it. This is the kind of urban ledgend that gets passed around, even by vets. Anyone who actually works with dogs (show, Obedience, Agility, Tracking, Hunt etc) will tell you that less hair = a more comfortable dog in the heat. Would I shave an Aussie or a Golden.... probably not because I think it ruins the look of the dog. However, I've personally seen the difference over the years between a Poodle in full show coat and a Poodle clipped down in a short trim. There is NO comparison... the Poodle in long coat is just plain hot!


1.) The idea that humans don't wear many layers of clothes to keep COOL is FALSE! Humans living in the desert in Asia wear MANY layers of clothing, and DON'T sweat! The key is DIRECT CONTACT WITH THE SUN is HOTTER than being veiled/clothed in loose fitting garments! I KNOW! I used to wear SHORTS all the time in the hot seasons, and now I prefer pants and LONG skirts, because direct sunlight is WAY HARSH on UNCOVERED skin! PLUS, I SUNBURN LIKE IT WAS MY JOB!
2.) A dog is NOT a human! STOP PROJECTING YOUR DISCOMFORT on your dog! Talk about a COMMON MISCONCEPTION! The ASPCA is RIGHT in this case, and that that I am AGAINST other policies of animal health of theirs.
4.) I FIRMLY BELIEVE in ALL aspects of NATURAL MEDICINE and ORGANIC FOODS! It is a COMMON MISONCEPTION that a dog gets bugs JUST because they are outside and/or have long coats! Feed your DOG BETTER FOOD, NATURAL AND ORGANIC, and I guarentee with a LEGITIMATELY HEALTHY NATURAL DIET, you won't need to shave anything in any weather! The dog will be HOLISITCALLY BETTER! The so-called "comfort" they experience after such NONSENSE is TEMPORARY. And, like MOST Western medicine, ONLY CURES THE SYMPTOMS! The LONG TERM EFFECTS ARE MUCH WORSE!


Oh, and my point is REALLY... JUST BECAUSE WESTERN MEDICINE (ie: These so-called "animal doctors" w/ pase 1950's medical ideas!) think it works, DOESNT MEAN ANYTHING!... Look to Eastern Medicine philosophies, or JUST BE NATURAL (which means LEAVE YOUR DOGS HAIR ALONE, except for BRUSHING!)... for REAL, LOGICAL, and HEALTHY answers!



(Now, hopefully I'll be able to sleep toight!)


They have hair, not fur, and it grows like human hair.

Myra Clements

I have a mixed breed terrier who gets groomed about every 3 months. I have noticed that after grooming, she has difficulty walking for 3-4 days after her grooming. This time has been the worst. She is on prednisone for a couple of days to see if this helps ( it seems to). She has cerebellar abiotrophy and normally has difficulty walking but after grooming, it seems that her back legs don't want to get her standing up and moving. On Wed. when I had her groomed, she could do nothing for herself. Now on Saturday, she is a little better. Since I just had back surgery 3 weeks ago, I am not supposed to lift more than 10 lbs. and trying to take her out for potty has been a real problem. Has anyone else ever had a problem like this? If so, what was your solution. Someone has suggested that the harness used to hold her upright during grooming is possibly the problem. Any thoughts would be appreciated.


When dogs are groomed, they have to stand still in one position for a length of time. The bigger the dog... the longer it stands. Also, if dogs are not a good citizens on the table, then many groomers will string them up tight so that they don't move.

It sound like grooming is physically taxing on your dog. I think your groomer should try experimenting with having the dog sit, stand and lie in different positions during grooming. If your dog is not trained to stand, sit, and lie quietly on the grooming table, then you have some homework to do.