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.



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.



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.