To Shave or Not To Shave Your Pet?

dog in lake

Photo: Elizabeth D.

During these dog days of summer when the weather is hazy, hot, and humid, you may look at your dog and think, “He must be dying under all of that fur.”  But did you realize that dogs don’t sweat through their skin?

According to Dr. Deborah Mandell of the University of Pennsylvania veterinary hospital, “They get rid of heat by panting, or through the pads of their paws. Clipping is not going to give them extra release.”

Dog fur can be complicated. Many dogs have two layers of hair called a double coat, an undercoat and an overcoat. Some examples of double coated dogs include: Chows, Collies, Golden Retrievers, Labs, Beagles, Huskies, and the list goes on.

To us that double coat seems great for the cold winter months, but what about the unbearable summer days? This is not about our experience with the heat, and since dogs don’t experience heat the same way that people do, sporting fur in the summer months is probably not bothering your pet as much as it bothers you.

Believe it or not, shaving a dog can actually make him hotter. “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.”

As owners, we don’t always like that advice. So what should you do?

It is ok to give your long-haired dog a summer trim to make the hair more manageable. It is probably best to allow a professional groomer to perform the task, and never shave down to the skin or try to cut the hair yourself with scissors.

Since dogs with thick coats naturally shed, they have a lighter coat in the summer so trimming is not necessary.  Remember to brush your dog’s fur and bathe her frequently as clean, brushed fur allows for better air circulation.

Of course, pet parents should remember to provide a shady area when taking your pet outside, and to provide plenty of water during hot days—hydration is key! For more ways to avoid heat related issues with your pet click here.

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