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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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.

Father Daniel

The advice on not using scissors to cut away mats on a long-haired dog's coat is a lesson I learned the hard way and that needs expansion. An effort to demat my Newfoundland before taking her to the groomer last week resulted in a laceration that required surgery to fix. Thankfully, I have ASPCA-endorsed pet insurance to help cover the cost.

The poor dog did not bleed or cry out. She seemed fine until a groomer at PetSmart discovered the serious wound. A nearby veterinary hospital determined the rather long laceration needed stitches and did so on under a general anaesthetic.


Are you absolutely certain that YOU injured your dog trying to demat her coat? My Standard Poodle has lost ear leather and bits of her nostrils when clipped at the groomers. I didn't take her to the same groomer or the same salon, but both of them were in PetSmart Stores. For over 5 years, she grew excited about being groomed. But that was her past. Now she trembles and tucks her tail. We need a new grooming salon.
I'm glad your dog is okay.


I have to totally disagree with this article. I have a cocker spaniel and we shave her down about 2 or 3 times a year. Let me tell you after we do this she is one of the happiest dogs in the world. In the summer if she is not shaved I have to deal with her itching and getting multiple burrs in her fur due to her being an adventurous dog. I will continue to shave her for her own comfort. Maybe if your dog is older and use to not getting shaved you shouldn't start but as for me and my dog I will be shaving her!!!


The pets that need to be clipped short for summer, are the ones whose owners never brush them. With all that undercoat on they truly suffer in the hot weather. I am constantly amazed by the number of people who don't brush. :(

Elizabeth Bram

Hi, you mentioned pet-specific sunblock. I have 1 13-14yr rescue poodle who has thinning tan hair and I worry about the sun with him. I have looked and haven't been able to find a pet-specific sunblock. Can you name some and where they can be purchased? thanks


I saw someone posted about shaving their cat, but can an ASPCA please comment? I have two short hair cats that are shedding like crazy and laying sprawled out like starfish on the floor trying to keep cool. They are indoor only, and we have been trying to keep them in the basement but I would like to hear your thoughts on shaving them.