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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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Christine

I am surprised to see so many people say that their dogs "feel so much better". How do you know? Did your dog tell you that? If so, you have a lot more issues than possible heat stroke/cancer for your dog. Take the advice of professionals. They have no reason to lie to us about our animals!!!

Michelle Benoit

this advice is like an old wives tale... there are plenty of well respected veterinarians that dispute this long held theory. i was tormented when my chow mix puppy's entire demeanor changed with the heat and humidity...i did a great deal of research and against even the groomers advice had him shaved. he was immediately back to his happy smiling playful self and no longer looking like roadkill on my floor under the air conditioner. I get him shaved 3 to 4 times a summer....he just loves it and his hair grows back beautifully in the fall, no bald spots or bizarre happenings that i was warned off...the nasty inexplicable hot spots also disappear!! so glad i read Cesar Millans website..regarding this subject!! I also had an elderly Golden Retriever shaved 25 years ago... it was one of the best things i had ever done for him...he acted like a pup again... the last year of his life was a good one for him, he was completely rejuvenated! if you love your dog don't listen to these old tales!! its simply not true.

Jessica Butts

Thank you! I had asked people on-line about this and no one mentioned that it could be harmful. I don't distrust evolution but with animals bred to have features that are loved by humans but are not at all helpful to the animal (eg our fluffy gal has a smooshy little face and is prone to having respiratory problems because "this nose was made for beauty") I've worried about the same thing in regards to her heavy coat. It is not something she can manage on her own (when The Animal Refuge League found her, she was covered in filthy matted knots and had a terrible respiratory infection) She also does things that are so dangerous, eating string because it reminds kitties of eating guts. Ten cents of dental floss led to over $3,000 in medical bills. So I'm torn. Animals certainly have instincts and natural
attributes that we will never fully understand and we should never assume that because a human likes something,an animal will as well but humans have intruded by changing the habitat as well as creating hybrid pets.
I will be leaving Suki WITH her coat of wild white hair. Thank you for telling me what Suki cannot and the next time I have a query, I'll make sure to call her doctor, just like I would for my child. Thank you for all that you do! Much Love,
Suki & Company

Pit mom

I am a groomer and agree 100%. It will also ruin there coat if they are a breed that is not meant to be shaved.

Linda

What a load of nonsense. I've been a groomer for 30 years -- Master Groomer for 15. You will NOT ruin a coat if you clip it down. I'm not talking shaving to the skin, which in most groomers' hands would be very dangerous because of uneducated "groomers" with a #10 blade and hot clippers... hello.. razor burn, which I deal with frequently. Taking a huge, heavy coat down with a MAXIMUM of a #7 blade won't hurt a thing. Done safely, responsibly and carefully, the dog won't be harmed in the least. It's the idiots out there than do it themselves with a #10 blade, or the uneducated "groomers" employed by Petco, PetSmart and the like that are the problem. Unfortunately, ASPCA frequently ALSO doesn't know what they are talking about or don't bother editing the articles without checking with an expert.

phyllis

My golden retriever is very sensitive to heat. For several years he couldn't stand to be outside in summer---pant, pant, pant. He also got hot spots which he was continually picking at.
Our vet finally recommended the "yellow retriever" hair cut. He gets this from spring through August and is now very comfortable.
He also gets no more hot spots. A hair cut has given him a vastly improved quality of life. I feel so sorry for those I see out with their masters and they are dragging along and panting so uncomfortably.

Crested mom

Say this to my two hairless Chinese cresteds.. they don't really have the option its Naked dog year round hahaha.. they do use baby sun screen when outdoors and maybe even a light tshirt if they're going to be out long to avboid sun burns.

Janet Diehl

I have an old Chow-mix with a very thick double coat. Chows evolived in Artic-Siberia area. While I found her in Florida; now we live in SW Wisconsin, but we've been having 80+ temperaters - not Artic weather!! I've tried shaving, but she still panted a lot. This year I had her washed, & her belly, ruff & rump hair cliped way back but not shaved. Likewise the groomer cliped any extra leg & foot hair, and the her ear hair. The later was a shock to see, as she looked so very different.

In the Winter I let her hair totally grow out. If she gets mats, I cut them out - using blunt tiped bandage shears & my fingers next to her body; then I gently pick apart the very last part of the mat.

Sally

Shaving your dog completely bald, and trimming your dog's coat down to 1 inch are two very different things. All this blog post is saying is that you shouldn't shave your dog down to its skin...which should never be done unless the dog is severely matted.

Don't agree with it, then shave your dog. I'm sure the ASPCA won't try to stop you. End of story.

Kayakers

Thank you for clarifying. This conflict appears to stem from miscommunication re: the use of grooming terms. We have had auusies (with double coats) for 14 years. One had major issues with overheating, so we asked our dogs' groomer about the pro's and con's of clipping him this spring. He carries a heavy coat. We tried clipping. He came home a different dog, a happier dog, a cooler dog. We were then able to sleep with the windows closed and no fans blowing on him all night long. Our other aussie had thyroid issues, so we would never have clipped her fur, as it might take forever to grow back. Different strokes for different folks. Discuss the issue with both your groomer and your vet. Our dog now has enough fur to protect him from the sun (which he is in occasionally) yet it is short enough for his belly to feel cool on our stone and tile floors.

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