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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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Rhonda Hodgman

I must say, I have a rescue border collie and did not shave her last summer at all ... she was miserable, even with brushing her nightly on our walks. I had her shaved this summer when it started heating up. We live in Phoenix and she is such a happy girl! I did not have her shaved to the skin but my groomer suggested to leave enough to protect her skin. I love my new found groomer and she got a $25.00 tip simply because she knew what would work and how to protect Micah.

SC

“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.”

This is ridiculous.

Insulation only prevents your house from overheating in the summer if you're running an air conditioner... If you weren't, I guarantee you'd have all the windows open and fans running to cycle air through the house from outside.

Warm blooded beings don't have internal air conditioners. As long as your pets body temperature is above the ambient temperature, they will be cooler WITHOUT insulation.

Dab

I have 2 Yorkies. They sport puppy cuts but they usually get longer in the winter. In the summer they have a very short cut but not shaved. They stay cleaner and are easier and quicker to wash. I can tell that they are also more comfortable. When we go outside they wear doggie sunscreen; I even have sunscreen wipes to apply periodically when they are outdoors. I also am sure they they wear something weather appropriate like a cute sun dress to protect them.To protect their eyes, they wear doggles! I also make sure that they are well hydrated. I carry cold water in a cooler/lunch bag I carry with me. Also, if it is too warm, they ride in their dog stroller (provides shade with the hood up) complete with cool pads! We often go places in the summer but they go right into the air conditioning no matter where we are if I feel they need to cool off further...this includes our vehicle which we all sit in with the air condition running full blast when we need to !

Kitty

"Shaved" & "clipped" are TWO different actions. NO animal should be "shaved" to the skin...however close "clipping" CAN help an animal who cannot groom themselves, or one who seems to get uncomfortable in the heat of summer.

phyllis miyauchi

My golden suffers terribly from the heat. He continually pants. When he gets a shave, he quits constantly panting and he has more energy. I listened to this "c" for several years while he suffered. Finally 2 different vets said to shave him. I'm so glad I did. He also no longer gets hot spots.

Randoff

Well, seems mother nature looks after her own. That is why dogs shed to rid themselves of fur durng the summer and need not be "shaved". Trimmed to look better, maybe. But to shave is to go against how nature intended your dog to be unless they have a particular skin issue that needs to be addressd.

Tarie

This would be true if the dogs had originated in the areas where they now live. If I took a cold weather animal and moved it to the desert that would not apply. Dogs have been bred by people to have certain attributes and are often placed in areas where they are NOT looked after by "mother nature". My naturally almost bald rat terrier would not fair well in the northern circle and my corgi doesn't do well in our desert climate. He also suffers from epilepsy - our VET has us shave him and he is remarkably happier when shaved. Although I love his silky soft coat I would rather he be comfortable. By the way, we were sent here by my husband's job. I also think that choosing a dog that isn't good for your climate is a poor choice. I hate it when people equate wild animals with dogs - dogs are not wild animals but genetically engineered to meet the needs of people. Look at the brachycephalic dogs for example!

michael

I am neither a vet nor a groomer, but I am a thermal engineer and I take issue with the statement "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."

If two objects are at different temperatures then heat always flows from the warmer object to the colder object. Insulation simply slows down this process. The reason why your home insulation helps in the summer time is because you have an air conditioner running to keep the air inside your house cool. The insulation slows the rate at which the warm external air heats up the cooler air inside your house so the A/C does not have to work as hard and you can save on your energy bills.

Pets do not have internal air conditioners, and their fur (insulation) does not help to keep them cool in the summer time (quite the opposite). The metabolic processes that go on inside any animal (which are necessary to sustain life) generate heat. Indeed any "machine" be it biological or mechanical generates waste heat when it is running - it is an inevitable consequence of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and there is no getting around it. Any "machine" must release that waste heat somehow. A dog or cat does it by panting and convection to ambient air; humans do it mostly by evaporating sweat from our skin; a car does it by mostly by blowing hot combustion products out the tail pipe, and a computer blows hot air out its vent (that's why it has a little fan inside it).

What would happen if you wrap your laptop with insulation and leave it running for an hour? You could then unwrap the insulation and find the smoldering, melted remains of what used to be your laptop, that's what! Actually I think a lot of laptops nowadays have a temperature sensor inside that will force automatic shutdown to prevent this if it gets too hot, but I digress...

The point is, thick fur insulation can have the same effect on your beloved pet, so be extra careful when it is hot outside. Most important of all: NEVER EVER EXERCISE WITH YOUR PET ON A HOT DAY! We humans are much better at releasing our excess heat than they are, and they can very quickly overheat and die on a hot day.

Sorry for the long rant, but if this post saves the life of one pet from heat exhaustion it will be worth it.

Tarie

Well said.
I agree that this drives me crazy. Dogs are warm blooded and give off heat. A cooler doesn't cool off hot items that are placed inside it, it only keeps cool in if there is a cool item there in the first place.

planetlove

In fact, as with all mammals, when shaved or cut, hair follicles are stimulated to regrow or grow in darker and thicker. (Just ask the ladies who struggle with unwanted hair in all the wrong place. Pluck or cut, and it grows back faster, thicker, darker!) So actually the fur should be left alone. A VET STUDENT'S SUGGESTION: Carry a little water spray bottle, spraying lightly will create cool air flow on the fur - but it's not wise to shave or cut hair. good luck!

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