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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Bobbie M

I couldn't agree more. This is a wives' tale. Years ago, I read an article that talked about their coats acting as insulation and asked my vet about it. He said it did act as insulation and also kept heat in as a fur coat would do for humans. He warned about sunburns but I'm careful not to shave them too closely and they are inside dogs. My two large shepherd mixes have gotten hair cuts for 10 years without issue. The fur on my older guy doesn't grow back as quickly now but he's much happier when he has short hair in the Missouri summer heat and I'm happy the shedding is reduced!


This article says nothing about leaving your pets fur untouched. Every pet owner should bathe and groom their furry friends. It simply states that dogs have fur to protect them from the environment. I agree, you should never shave a double coated dog or cat....that is why they shed. If you take a look at dogs and where they came from before we domisticated them, they were wild. Look at all the wild animals with fur that actually live outside. Think about it! They have fur for a I know that we love our pets and want to do our best by them, and yes summer is hot. And just because you're hot you think your pet is hot, but shaving them is not the answer. They were born with fur for a reason. Just take care of your pet with regular groomings....baths, trimming, and brushing. And always make sure they have plenty of water.


Ms. Holcomb, Guess what? You are not a dog and your dog is a fur covered animal. If their fur was meant only to keep them warm in cold temps., don't you think they would shed it all in the summer? Trust that nature is taking care of your dog and the doctors/scientists at ASPCA study the NATURE of all animal species(except for humans). Second to willful cruelty, projecting human comforts and desires onto pets has probably been the root cause of more premature deaths of pets and it borders on negligent abuse. In fact, I think it is abuse when you choose ignorance. A human comparison: Children don't like to wear helmets or use seatbelts because they're uncomfortable. We can relate to that. But informed, responsible adults still make them wear them, in spite of their complaining. And now it's the law because there were too many who chose ignorance and took the path of least resistance, costing lives and taxpayers. Would you continue to shave your dogs if there were laws against it? Maybe there should be...


You think domestic dogs are natural? If nature is taking care of all animals, why do we need vets? Why do you think nature takes care of all other animals, but not humans?


Please re-read the article. They said not to SHAVE, they DID however reccommend trimming/clipping. There is a HUGE difference. Trimming typically leaves a small amount of fur, shaving removes it entirely. And some of the commentors are right, some breeds of dog simply don't regrow their fur properly. We would trim our American Eskimo's fur down, but they're one of the breeds that don't regrow when shaved. And I know there is one breed that when the fur does grow back, it's discolored. I can't remember the name, however.

Val Tisdel

Clipping is not shaving. you're leaving the undercoat.

M. Doram

This is not misinformation! I am so relieved to see this here because I have been telling my clients this for years. It's not wearing a wool blanket - it's like taking the insulation out of the walls in your house. The undercoat protects them from heat and cold. You can clip a dog and leave a 1" length, keeping the undercoat, and the dog may feel lighter, but hot is hot - and dogs do not sweat through their skin. The undercoat acts like a thermostat, so the dog grows and sheds it as needed. Shaving a dog close to the skin can make them feel the heat and sun MORE, in addition to the chance that the hair won't grow back the same.


I agree this is bad advice and have heard it several times before. I live in a hot dry climate but every time I have failed to have one of my dogs with a very thich coat, shaved in the summer, it has been horrible for that dog. They are much happier and more energetic when the thick coat comes off.


Im a dog groomer and I have to tell over 10 people a day about the dangers of shaving dogs in the summer. I am so sick of hearing people say "but shes panting" or "hes really hot". Shaving dogs in the heat is a bad idea, especially if they are outside alot. They are at a high risk of heat stroke with their fur gone. If you are going to get your dog a haircut I would suggest not going shorter than 3/4 of an inch. If its a longer haired breed such as a golden, chow, husky etc...try getting them a furminator bath to release the undercoat but leave their regular coat alone. If you absolutely feel that you need to shave your dogs there are two things you should do. First, apply dog sunblock before you go on your daily walks and second, keep them indoors until it grows back. Thank you ASPCA for getting this important information out here. There are alot of naive pet parents out there. Dogs 101 show also had this information in the episode with the samoyed that I was happy to see aired. Great Job!!!


I'm also a groomer and totally agree. Thank you for taking the high road and not attacking others for their comments.