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.




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.


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.


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.


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.

Kathryn A Duck

We shaved our Border collie because she was constantly in and out of the pond. She absolutely loved it!! For the first time she could get rubbed and scratched and petted without it pulling her long fur. Living in Florida we kept her shaved 9mo out of the year. Her coat always grew back a shiny and beautiful during the winter months. But she was always excited to get back to the groomer. Perhaps she was the rare exception. I would not hesitate to try shaving depending on the type of dog.


i cannot thank Dr.Murray enough for writing this article.
i own a Bergamasco & am constantly trying to explain the "coat insulation" theory to all. I am printing this article up in multiples & will be handing it out on the streets of NY.
Thankyou for publishing this common sense article about dogs coats .


I think shaving your dog is a personal decision. I have shaved my Australian Shepherd for the last 10 years and his coat is beautiful in the winter months. I show in conformation and you would never know in the winter months that he was shaved in the summer. Personally, without his coat he is more active, not panting 24/7 and loves showing off he has a new hair cut. My dogs are inside dogs and have limited time outdoors. Everyone should do what they think is best for their own fur child. To me I don't want to wear my winter coat in the summer. Aren't sheep sheared in the summer to keep them cool ... why can't dogs be too? JMO

Henry Katz

I have a very large very furry very cranky Maine Coon cat. He gets very bads matts and goes ballistic if I try to use the furminator or any type of comb/brush. My vet shaved him himself with the lion cut last year to get rid of the matting issue and he seemed more content. This year he was very lethargic with the heat waves and just laid in front of the fan or ac. Had him shaved but not as close as last year. Much to my surprise, he is actually affectionate and playful.


The article focused on dogs.
Does the same apply to long "haired" cats?


I have 3 dogs and a cat. I don't belive in shaving them down to the skin, but I do give them short haircuts. I bath them 2 times a month and have been doing this for years. The dogs love being bathe, 2 bichons and a poodle. The are always clean and become very energetic after their baths. Curley hair dogs in my oponion need that extra groom, they get mattered easy. Their private part especially need to be clean. My cat gets shaved two times a year and gets a bath. Keeping her clean stops the hair getting in her throat and vomiting. It also keeps the danfrift to a minamal. I think you know what is best for your animals. Common sense. Shaving your dogs and then leting them sit in the heat is plane stupidity. A good grooming is healthy for your animals, shaving down to the skin is not a good idea.