While humans dress differently depending on the season, most pets “wear” the same coat year-round. Shaving off that hair during the hot summer months might seem like a good idea to keep a dog cool, but it can actually have the opposite effect on some animals.
dr Ashley Navarrette, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, talks about summer grooming and other techniques to help pets weather the heat.
“While some pets can benefit from a thorough grooming, a full shave of a dog isn’t usually necessary, unless it’s mating,” Navarrette said. “Trimming can be useful on long-haired breeds to make the hair more manageable, but this should be done by a professional to avoid injury.”
For dogs, the type of summer grooming depends on the breed and coat type. An important difference is that some dogs have hair that continuously grow in a single layer, while others have a certain type of hair called fur that grows up to a certain length in two layers.
“There are some breeds that require frequent grooming (e.g. Poodles) which may involve shaving coats down to less than 1 inch in length; However, these breeds tend to have hair rather than fur,” Navarrette said.
During the summer, owners might be tempted to shave dogs with thick double coats like Siberian Huskies, Labradors, Australian Shepherds, and Pomeranians, but that thick coat is actually an advantage in warm weather. It serves as a natural insulation to help dogs with thermoregulation by creating a cool air barrier in the coat.
“We often see problems shaving these breeds because the undercoat grows back first and can interfere with the growth of the top coats or the main part of the coat that we see,” Navarrette said. “This can result in an altered coat after it grows back.”
In addition to cosmetic concerns, shaving a dog’s coat can make it less tolerant of high temperatures due to the loss of natural insulation.
Rather than shaving dogs with thick coats, Navarrette recommends frequent brushing to remove excess hair.
“Brushing is 100% recommended as many of these breeds naturally thin the undercoat of their coat during the warmer months,” she said. “Unless this hair is physically removed by brushing, combing, or blowing it out, the coat may not be doing its intended purpose of keeping the pet cool.”
While grooming can certainly help keep dogs cool, there are many other ways to ensure pets are comfortable this summer.
“Whenever possible, I recommend keeping pets in an air-conditioned environment,” Navarrette said. “I can understand that some dogs spend most of their time outdoors and in these cases shaded areas can feel 10-15 degrees cooler and should be readily available.”
Whether indoors or outdoors, pets should always have access to cool, clean water. Products such as cooling mats can also help to get rid of the heat.
“Dog walks should be done early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the hottest parts of the day,” Navarrette said. “While temperature is a factor in pet safety, it is also important to consider humidity, asphalt/concrete temperature, age and constitution of the pet (eg, short-faced breeds are more prone to heat stroke ) and state of health.”
By considering all of these factors, you can ensure your pet has a fun and safe summer. And before you pull out the trimmers or head to a pet salon, consider whether your dog’s coat is helping or preventing him from staying cool.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed online at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics can be sent to [email protected].