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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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sjb

Please refrain from asking others to refrain from political commentary and then offering your own.

gloria

Well said. I love how people make everythhing about them. When the focus should be on the annimals.

Christine Heidt

Dear Gail,
I disagree with shaving a dog for summer. For ten years I had my Malamute and Pomeranian groomed 3 times a year and they were fine. Then, without my permission, the same groomer took it upon herself to shave my dogs (is probably easier than combing out all that underfur)and both dogs developed a 'razor burn'. I went to three different veterinarians who confirmed that these breeds should not be shaven and I had to put the dogs on Prednison and antibiotics. Needless to say, their fur did NOT GROW BACK. Both looked like pigs instead of dogs. Three years later I had to put them to sleep. The incompetent groomer never acknowledged her mistake.
Christine Heidt, Saint Lazare, Que/Canada

Jessica Butts

I'm wondering why the two dogs had to be put to sleep? Of course I'm terribly sorry for your loss. I'm wondering if the shaving caused their deaths three years later? Were their immune systems harmed by the steroids (prednisone) ? It wasn't because of their appearance,right? I'm sorry and please don't feel insulted but I don't know you and was concerned. My deceased grandfather put one dog to sleep bc of cancer and chose to put his healthy dog to sleep at the same time. Why? Because he wanted his heartbreak to be accomplished in one swoop and was worried the healthy dog would be lonely.

Victoria Reeve

It is not at all absurd to assume a causal connection between the dogs being shaved, developing razor rash and later having to be euthanized. The reason: Prednisone suppresses the immune system and alters the function of the adrenal glands. The dogs could easily have developed any number of illnesses/diseases as a result.

Frank

Your post makes it sound like you are relating your dogs being clipped or shaved with their eventual deaths., or that the resultant "need" for a course of steroids and antibiotics caused their deaths three years later. I hope I'm reading that wrong, because if I am not, that sounds utterly absurd.

Cheryl Smith

Christine, the very same thing happened to my Golden Retriever cross, when the stupid groomer shaved her without my permission. Her fur never grew back, either, and she died less than a year later.

TaryP

People who shave off their double coated dog's hair or ignore the health advice from reputable people (aka ASPCA, and their vets) should be arrested for animal abuse! It is anthropomorphising to assume that a dog with long hair is hot because a woman with thick long hair is hot. Dogs expel extra heat very differently than humans and have different body heat/cooling systems. Just look at the many longer haired and double coated breeds that are bred into a hot region (e.g. border collies/ aussie shepherds). Do NOT shave or close clip a double coated breed - you're harming your dog if you do!

pat

yes it is all very confusing as what to do with your dogs fur but i have also heard that the short shvae cuts disturb the natural shedding process so this i do find to b true

Judith

Gail holcomb, The dog is not a human no matter what you are thinking. It's easy for a parent/owner to reflect their own discomfort in summer onto their pets. But that being said, animals are supposed to have that hair for their protection. You are being thoughless and since your pet can't talk and tell you of it's discomfort leave it's hair alone and brush him/her. AS I have read here most people trim the hair for thier not wanting to deal with shedding. Just brush them more and that will take care of them. Don't trim their hair.

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