There is one common seasonal question that I don’t know the right answer to, and I’m guessing that I never will. That question is: Should I shave my dog in the summer to keep him cool?
It seems like a no-brainer, right? When it’s super hot in the summer, the logical solution would be to get rid of that heavy coat! After all, it feels better to me when I have short hair in the summer, and I certainly wouldn’t wear a heavy coat outside in the hot, humid weather.
What the professionals say
Before you turn those clippers on your favorite fluffy family member, consider this: some veterinarians caution against the summer shave-down, claiming that your pet’s coat actually acts as insulation against the heat. They say that just as the insulation in your home protects you from both the cold winter chill and the summer heat, a dog’s coat helps keep them cool in the summer.
I have a few issues with this theory, but the key issue is that the vast majority of homes are air-conditioned, whereas the inside of our dogs are not. Furthermore, I’d say that if it were summer and my heater was on, I’d probably prefer my house not to be insulated in hopes of losing some of that heat. Our dogs’ bodies do produce heat, and because they don’t sweat like we do, I can’t help but wonder if their coats hold in some of that heat, especially on a hot summer day.
Things to consider
The long and short of this debate is that, at the end of the day, we don’t know for sure what the right answer is because there have been no scientific studies to confirm or reject whether it’s better to shave your dog in summer. Some people claim that their dogs seem much more comfortable after they’re shaved, while some maintain that their dogs are just fine with the coat that Mother Nature gave them.
Also, keep in mind that there are breed variations as well as individual variations in heat tolerance. A dog who’s acclimated to high heat and humidity will fare significantly better than a dog who’s experiencing his first southern summer regardless of their coat.
The final answer
Because I don’t know the answer to this commonly asked question, I generally just tell my clients to go with their gut. After all, they know their dog best. I do, however, always mention a couple of caveats:
- Some dog breeds are “double-coated,” and sometimes these breeds take a really long time to grow their fur back after it’s shaved. Double coated breeds include Pomeranians and Huskies.
- Fur protects a dog’s skin from sunburn. If you plan to shave, leave enough fur to provide protection from the sun’s rays, or be prepared to apply a pet-safe sunscreen daily. Dogs and cats can get skin cancer just like their two-legged owners.
- Always make sure your dog has access to shade and freshwater outside. Don’t let the fact that you’ve shaved them lull you into a false sense of security about heatstroke.
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