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.



Judith Macomber

Really a question: I have a (now lumpy) cat whose fur I havnt been able to de-mat. I don't want to get het "lion-clipped" because I don't think it's good for het (as in the comments about sun burn, etc. I've been using a furmulator, but can't get the mats out. I'd like to know how to clip her with the vet clippers to get the mats, or how to give her a short "furcut". Where can I get info? Thanks, Judithm


thanx for the info. I'll check out these clippers. Would rather be safe! (posted other thank u note as well)

Patrice Taylor

I have a little dog who looks like Toto, but he LOVES to go to the beach!! We have to keep him shaved down in the summer, or he turns into a giant sand ball!! He loves to swim out into the small waves, and tear it up with the big dogs.


I inherited a kitty when my sister passed away (I already have a Greyhound) Kitty was leaving tufts of hair every where (she hadnt been properly cared for after my sister became ill) I took her to groomer & had her shaved because she is a long hair but in her case she is strictly indoor never out She seems comfy now and not throwing up hair balls


I've heard of this issue regarding the trimming of pets. However, my long-haired cat threw up furballs DAILY throughout the summer. Frequent brushing proved to be of little help and she was always hiding in bathroom, the coolest place in the apartment. She seemed almost lethargic between early morning and late evening. The furball issue was a huge problem and the frequency was dangerous, so I began shaving, (more accurately, a "buzz cut," leaving her hair about 1/2" long,) her every summer. She's been a content kitty ever since! Please note, she is not a dog, (who may have different needs,) and she does not go outside.


We had a beagle mix, Angel. The fur around her neck was very thick. I decided one summer several years ago to shave her neck. Mind you I did not leave her with no fur on her neck, just thinned it out a lot. Let me tell you, the old girl was happier, ran around like a much younger dog. Even our neighbor commented on it. I would have never thought giving a dog a haircut would have made such a difference. She acted liked a much younger girl. And even started the squirrels in the yard more. I have never had a problem when I shaved my dogs hair. I can also see how it helps insulate some too.


I get my Shorkie cut just a little shorter in the summer months than the winter. He always feels so much better! We live where it's over 100 degrees and 100% humidity. He doesn't go outside for walks until the sun goes down.


Great topic! I have seen other dogs getting seasonally shaved and wondered if my german shep./gold. ret. mix should also get shaved.
We handle summer heat by walking when it is cooler--which means before 8AM and then again after 7PM.
He rotates amongs his beds, carpet, and tile, during the day.

Thanks for sparing him the loss of his beautiful coat!

Rebecca Conner

Some dogs need to be shaved for other reasons then the heat. For example, I have a German Shepherd / Wolf mix that has skin allergies, but if we keep him shaved year around it isn't as bad. The vet thinks it's because yeast grows in his thick undercoat and his sensitive to it. I think he's happier shaved then not too.

S. Faerber

We shaved out Siberian Husky/Golden Retriever this summer because of the extreme temperatures and he IS the happiest dog in the world.Why would the ASPCA advise against this ? I don't understand.