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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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Twiller Collick

Is ther any place that gives shots free

ShadowDog

I agree that some long-haired dogs should definitely not be shaved. However, this example does not really fit - “A dog’s coat is kind of like insulation for your house,” explains Dr. Louise Murray, Vice President of ASPCA Bergh Memorial 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.”

I don't know about you, but my house, although insulated, gets pretty darn cold in the winter without extra heating and pretty darn hot in the summer without some kind of cooling system. The insulation alone is not enough. I think it's the same with dogs. Some of them need a little extra help in keeping cool, but instead of being shaved, that might mean being in an air-conditioned house or being hosed down with cool water, maybe providing a child's swimming pool for them, and keeping lots of cool water available.

Carm

Had a beautiful Newfoundland told the groomer not to shave her down, she was messy as we got her from the rescue and had tangles asked them to do the best they could no shaving as it is not good for them they have blue skin and could kill them well she was shaved down when I picked her up and I lost her 2 weeks later from a heart attack caused by overheating in air conditioning. Leave their coats alone, trim if you must! The groomer we have listens and knew about Newfs!Thank heavens!

Kate

I have three dogs, a peke-a-poo, pekingnese and a teenie weenie chihuahua. The pekes both get puppy cuts all the time and they are cleaner, more comfortable and happy about it. They swim in the pool in summer and wear sweaters and coats and such (what wardrobes!) all winter. My chihuahua wears sweaters when it's cool and heavy wear when it's cold. She does not get groomed, but for shampoos and minor trunmming of her ears (BIG ears!!!) and tail, as she's long-haired (two pounds of cuteness.) I never had an issue with their haircuts, but they are not shaved to skin. Although, I did have a Sheltie and when he got old I goit him shaved...and it wasn't a good thing. :-( But he was messing himself and it seemed a good idea at the time.

Linda

I am also a groomer & have the struggle with this topic as well with clients. I have yet to find any actual research that has been done to test dogs core temp when shaved or not I would love to see an actual controlled study on this topic. I know myself with long hair that there is a HUGE difference with my hair down over my back vs in a pony tail. I don't beleive the dogs coat "cools" them but it does act as a sunscreen & shed water. I do beleive the double coated breeds can be comfortable w/proper grooming at intervals of no more than 8wks.
There are a lot of "guessing" as to how the dog is affected by clipping. I totally agree w/sun exposure issues & that there are risks for post clip alpecia when someone calls me & wants to shave their double coated dog the first thing I ask is has it been shaved before? this will tell me that regardless of whether I'll do it or not or if I explain the potential problems they WILL find someone to do it if they've always had it done, so in these cases I usually will clip the pet per owners request & still explain about the risk of alpecia. Most times when an owner has one of these breeds that hasn't been clipped & I explain how the natural coat will be affected by the clipping they opt to a maintenance schedule to keep the dog in good shape (usually a 6-8wk. interval between grooms).
I don't have a blanket policy on clipping these breeds I have to consider the dogs individual circumstances, lifestyle, health etc.. for some dogs owners report that the dog is so much more comfortable if the dog is healthy & happy & the owner is happy that's the best outcome.
What I don't like to see is double coats pelted full of gross filth/ticks/wounds etc. never been touched for a yr. or more living outdoors! This is extremely disturbing to me & concerns me much more when being asked to clip them down. For the pet that lives mostly indoors & people insist on clipping for shed control or that their pet is cooler happier short I don't have a big issue.
Again I wish someone would do ACTUAL core temp tests or direct me to research data I don't like "hear say" or "guessing" the only actual data I've seen is the particular breeds that genetically or ones w/specific diseases are more apt to present w/alpecia & we know when clipping the double coated that the guard coat will take a very long time to grow back in up to 3yrs. Beyond that there is no facts one way or the other only observance data. I know of some cases where a dog had hot spots often or particular allergies & when clipped never had them again so obviously for some "individuals" there is benefits.
I've owned nothing but double coated dogs though mine are indoor pets so they spend some time outdoors but alot of time in AC when its hot I've never clipped them short I've shortened furnishings only. People have to remember that when you take a nordic breed then make it live in Louisianna or something its no wonder they'd be uncomfortable!
I will try to never clip a dog shorter than a 5F-1/2" or 7F-1/4" at least at the minimum a 1/4" of coat is left.
I do often suggest to owners of the goldens, newfs, collies, aussies & the like that I can do a snap on attachment & ONLY clip from below the back down to remove some lenght but not damage the coat, so the back of the dog is NEVER clipped then I just blend w/thinners & they look gorgeous but all furnishings & lower body is only approx. 1.5-2" long.
Well My $.02

carol magid

I understand insulation - especially in sheep - we sheared once a year cause they LOOKED hot and then had to watch for sunburn. Now I have a 75 pd border collie-chow - very hairy. Late spring always clumps of black hair all over house and I know time to shave him. That works - he looks better, house cleaner without hair clumps on floor, and I think he feels better. It's only hair, grows back quickly so shaving works well to stop shedding.

Patricia

We need to keep a copy of this article in my salon. If I had a dollar for every golden retriever or shepherd mix I have talked out of a shave in the last week I'd be loaded.

Diana

As an informed animal lover and dog groomer I am aware that the coat actually provides protection and have told people so. BUT people will believe and do as they think best. And I must admit that some animals do seem to feel better after being shaved. But as previously stated, there is a big difference between say a Shitzu and a Pom as far as hair texture. Trying to "trim" a spitz type coat is a PITA. It's like trying to trim cotton balls. And yes, frequently the hair never grows right again. So I do shave a lot of Poms down over and over again because that's what the owner wants. I also have a lot of large farm dogs that get shaved once a year because they are so horribly matted and have probably never been brushed in their lives. I warn the owners about sun burn, but I doubt they listen and those dogs are the ones who suffer. As also stated, dogs like Cockers and Shitzus are suppose to be groomed. How long depends on how much time you have for upkeep. My Shitzu has a Teddy Bear look because I keep him brushed. If you don't have that time, get a cute, short puppy cut. My biggest gripe though is when people bring me dogs so matted with sores and fecal matter I throw up (and I have a very strong stomach). They all blame the economy. I know times are hard, they are for most people. But don't blame money for not keeping your dog brushed! Brushing your dog regularly has numerous benefits including stretching the time between grooms if money is tight.

Shirlene

I have had German Shepherds all my life. 90% of the time they were in the house. One of my Shepherds had some skin problems, so the groomer clipped his hair about 1-1/2 inches long. It made it much easier to apply his skin medicine. He liked it - I imagine he also liked the relief the medicine gave him. After his hair grew out longer, he pranced even more. Felt more like himself, I'm sure.

I've never done anything other than comb, comb, comb my Shepherds hair. Bathe them occasionally. They've all been beautiful and very happy. I currently have a white German Shepherd who is blowing his coat - so I'm combing even more right now so the snow storm in the house is less. smile.

Rena

hubby had 2 long hair chawawa's when we first gotmarry. I ended up being their care giver. I noticed that in the summer they only wanted to lay around n do nothing. They were constantly panting n drooling. I decided it was time to buy sheers. I shaved them close but left enough to cover their skin so it wasnt exposed to the sun. After the firsttime, the dogs were happy little boys, running around and jumping and plYing again. Panting was limited n drooling gone. Would let it grown in for winter since we live in Pennsylvania. We average 2 major storms a yr. Their coats grew in much softer & I made my Peanut Butter & Jelly very happy dogs.

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