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Three Reasons You Shouldn’t Shave Your Pet

Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 12:00pm
Golden retriever wearing red collar

It’s hot out there! And if your Golden Retriever or long-haired kitty seems to suffer when the mercury rises, you might feel some temptation to break out your grooming tools and give your pets a full shave-down. We get where you’re coming from.

But wait! Put down those clippers! According to experts, you’ll be doing your pet a disservice. Here’s why:

  1. 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, Senior 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.

  1. Your dog’s coat prevents your pup from getting sunburn and helps protect her from skin cancer.

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.

  1. There are better ways to manage your pets’ coats to keep them cool: trimming and brushing.

“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.

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. Stay cool out there!

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LauraMaura

I agree with many of the comments to this article. For one, it doesn't address the needs of different breeds and the variety of coats they come with. As a former groomer I found that most dogs appeared overjoyed to lose their coats (though many times they were matted beyond brushing and required a closer than normal clip). I also agree with others that propose a cut that leaves about an inch so the skin isn't exposed works well for many dogs. Another good way to keep them cool outdoors in 95 + heat is too get them wet - but don't use cold water, lukewarm is good. Also don't over-exert or run them on hot pavement unless their pads are protected. Keep them inside the rest of the time and doggie should be content.

Cindy Wines

I have two Chow mixes and their coat gets so thick, it is like sheep fur. I just had my Chow Akita mix shaved and I only do it once a year. I am getting my Chow Australian Shepard mix shaved next week. Her fur by her rear and hind legs had a very thick matted undercoat. They come in at night and they have shade and plenty of water during the day.

john

You need to recognize that one size does not fit all. My wife and I are retired farmers who have averaged 12 to 14 "couch" dogs for the last 25 years. Until now, if they showed up, they got to stay. That included neutering, all shots, flea and tick control, probably too much vet observation, and all the love they could handle and we could give.

We currently have 10 dogs because retired people of 70 don't always have the money or strength to do all that is "right", and we had to start cutting back because some of our current family will probably outlive us as it is. We have everything from a 15 pound Scottie something, to a full blooded Pyreneese named Dobie who is about 13 years old. Dobie gets shaved for the Arkansas summers and has since he showed up full grown about 11 years ago. We make sure he doesn't get sunburned, and if he or anyone else starts to get hot, they come into the air conditioned house.

They are farm dogs who do as they please as long as they get along and don't make messes in the house. They get bathed if they get skunked or roll in something, and the 3 or 4 with long hair may get brushed if nothing more pressing comes up or they need a minor injury looked at.

The day after he is shaved and for the next week or so, Dobie jumps around like a puppy....as all the long haired ones do. We all do the best we can, but one answer doesn't work for everyone. John

stillgrieving

Ask yourself whether or not you want someone wielding a sharp blade next to your dog's skin. I took my dog in for a trim last spring and the groomer - without my consent - began to shave him. She sliced into his neck and injured him horrifically. He DIED after 8 weeks of suffering. Groomers in Canada do not need any qualifications - yes, some have them, but there are a lot of dangerous people out there posing as competent and professional groomers. My only solace in sharing my story is that someone out there will be spared my grief and make a more educated decision when it comes to pet grooming.

Just a reader

Wow!!
First........Calm down everyone.
Second....I believe this information was designed to just explain how the dogs fur is designed to work. The article does condone trimming. I don't think it was designed to tell you how to handle every situation with every pet.
Third.......As responsible pet owners, it is our responsibility to research and examine any and all information, and be thankful that we have these resources to help inform us of the possible effects of certain processes. It is just like parenting, we will all find what works best for our "children" that works in our situations.
Keep in mind, it is just information..that's all....what we do with it is up to us, there is no need to get upset or defensive, at the very least, we are all welcomed to our own opinion.

As a few readers mentioned, if you are a responsible pet owner, I am sure you will discuss your pets welfare and how to proceed with proper care and maintenence with both your vets and groomers. You know your pet better than anyone else, and if you are a responsilbe owner we all have faith the you will make the right choice regarding their health. As far as irrespnsible pet owners, I doubt they would even give a crap what anyone said anyway, they would just do what they want regarless of the welfare of the animal.

There will be some breeds of dogs that would not do well if they had their fur shaved, as someone mentioned a Huskys fur will not grow back with the proper texture of shaved, we certainly would not want to compromise their coat in the long term. I guess it would just take a bit or research for any owner to learn specifics about their breed.

I hope you and all of your pets have a safe happy rest of the summer.

Sister Roberta ...

I wonder if shaving would make a pet more available to mosquitoes and, therefore susceptible to west Nile virus? Also, would fly bites be a problem?

Amy Taylor

For labs and other dogs who get "hot spots", many vets, including ours reccomends shaving, but they prefer to do it, versus a groomer, to make sure to much hair is not shaved off. Our labs are so much more comfortable and never get "hot spots" when shaved. Too bad this perspective wasn't presented in this article.

AbbyandSadiesMom

My long-haired Maine Coon is subject to severe mats, especially in summer. I've taken her to the vet a couple times to get a hygiene cut at her back-end so poop doesn't languish and Abby's fine with it. I've had them shave off the mats also and although it looked funny in a couple places, she was also fine with that. Now she's got a ton of mats and I do brush her frequently, but one day no mats - the next day, tons of them. I'm going to take her to the vet again and have her mats removed but ask them to trim her fur close so it doesn't look so weird. She's indoor only and feels so much better without the mats, so I guess the ASPCA and I are at odds with this factoid.

John M Lison

I had my American cocker spaniel groomed every 6 to 8 weeks of his life. When I moved to So Florida, I had him clipped shorter but always left his hair intact. I never shaved him although he often wore a full body crew cut (except of course for his trademark ears). He was definitely more comfortable in the hot FL climate particularly going in and out of the air conditioning. He passed away last February and I now have a mixed Spaniel who's a mix of Brittany and Springer and maybe English Cocker. She's almost 18 months and is looking shaggy so I 'm going to have her trimmed but not cut short like the cocker as she does not have that double layer of hair which the cocker had. She also seems far more tolerant of the hot weather than the cocker and she dries off in half the time he took to dry off after swimming. I'm not sure she would be as comfortable in near freezing water as my cocker was but she would certainly try it out.

Shelley

I have a 13 year old Golden Retriever and we have him shaved every May, as he swims daily in our pool. He would get skin infections every summer before we started the practice as his coat would hold in the moisture an cause irritation. He is much happier and acts just like a puppy!

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