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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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Bridgette

Did you try taking her to an animal hospital or rescue shelter that offers vet services for rescue animals. It does not sound like using scissors or doing this om your own is a good idea. I would spend some money and take her to a hospital. There are some vets here maybe they can tell you better than I can, this is just a suggestion.

Anne

I have a Goldie and for the first four years of her life summer would see her lazy and no energy and not wanting to go to obedience training, nothing like her Lab sister. After speaking to our vet I decided to get her shaved and she is now a different dog when summer comes around. Best thing I ever did for her. She is so much happier.

Rebecca

I never shaved my long haired cat until he began matting his fur (by teasing it with his mouth- Yes really) each summer. He seemed misearable so I thought I'd try shaving him. He's an indoor only cat so I did not have to worry about prolonged sun exposure. He wasn't crazt about the shaving part at first, but I noticed an immediate change in his personality after. He seemed more relaxed, less stressed and seemed to love how easy it was to groom himself. Now when I shave him he lays like a baby and I believe he knows the end result and is happy about it. I can't say enough about how he's become a happier cat when shaved. In the fall I let the fur grow back and don't shave him again until the end of May.

JT

It's not a black and white thing. Some breeds actually do very well with a close trim (TRIM, not bald shave). Who shaves their pet bald anyway? Most groomers won't even do that. Some people on here seem to enjoy being rigid and deliberately obtuse in their responses to those who are a bit more considerate and open minded about the topic. There's no template for every problem. Animals are evolved (and bred) for their natural climate region. Some seem to forget that we humans have a habit of taking things out of their natural environments and messing with the natural order of things. If you're raising Malamutes in Arizona, then it is your responsibility to do what is necessary to make sure the dog is healthy and happy living in a climate it was not meant for. Weather that means trimming, or just making sure you have the correct amenities. Be sensible.

KathyM51394

I wouldn't shave my golden, but when we went to FL and Carly went with us, I did have the groomer trim her. She took off just enough extra fur and Carly loved it. She did the "pants" and her "feathers" and thinned out her fur. Carly loved it!

Carol

We shave our border collie/golden retriever mix three times each summer. She is clearly happier as a result of the shave. She is 12 years old- but acts like a puppy every time she has a shave. I can understand the concern for sunburn, so you'll have to weigh whether this is right for your pet based on exposure to the sun. However, from our experience (which is for a dog who is either indoors or in the shade) shaving has made our dog much more comfortable and I highly recommend it.

Lesley

The difference is in the breed of dog. Poodles do best when regularly groomed. They have hair like people, it does not stop growing. I think this article is mostly referring to breeds such as retrievers and shepards, and such. These types of dogs have fur, which will stop growing at a certain length. This is for the reasons stated. (cooling, heating). Yes, having them "tidied up" is ok, not just for looks, but it helps to keep them healthy as well, but to have these types of dogs shaved, is a big no no. Also, because for breeds such as golden retrievers, sometimes, their hair doesnt grow back the same, or at all. So be careful not to lump all dogs into the same category when referring to hair and fur types.

Professional gr...

Body hair can be shortened and still provide protection from the elements. The coat can be left "smooth" without shaving to the skin, thus making grooming easier for the owners. Also less hair to bath and dry and less loose hair all over the furniture.

Jan White Gray

Thanks for the info. I have 2 long haired dogs and they get groomed about every 2months or so. I agree with not shaving them too short and I take them to the groomers if I'm having problems with mats. I know it can be very tempting to cut the mats with scissors, but it is too easy to cut their skin as the mats usually go down to the skin. Not worth the risk of hurting your pet.

Linda M

Depends on the dog, yes, but honestly to think we humans can master evolution ... do we really think we can breed dogs to have exactly the right coat to fit the environment they're living in? Sheesh the foxes living in my area evolved to shed more of their coats in summer and therefore regulate their body temp much better than my triple-layer coated Aussie. Plus foxes can be active at night; most of our dogs can't. I followed this "advice" for a few years then finally brought my poor suffering Aussie to the groomers to be shaved (not bald). The results were dramatic. My dog was a new dog. She went from panting all summer and trying to lay flat on the tile floor to being her happy, bouncy self year round. This advice is silly and simplistic. Disappointing coming from the ASPCA.

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