The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

Should I shave my pet for the summer?

By Dr. Laci Schaible

dog being shaved by groomer

As the temperatures rise across the country, many well-intentioned pet parents consider shaving your dogs and cats to keep them more comfortable with the warmth and humidity. After all, we don’t want to wear a fur coat during the summer, so why should our pets? Common sense tells us that shaving off a dense fur coat would help keep pets cooler in hot weather, but shaving your pets down actually robs them of their own natural defense against summer heat and sunburn.

Pet fur is entirely different from human hair. For both dogs and cats, their fur coats help them regulate their temperatures in both cold and warmer weather, similar to insulation for our houses. Unlike human hair, pet fur has different layers that are responsible for your pet’s comfort and temperature control.

If you do decide to trim down your pet’s coat during the next heat wave, keep these tips in mind.

Leave It To The Professionals

Clipper blades heat up quickly! If you use incorrect clippers or forget lubrication it can lead to painful dermal burns. It is best to leave it to a professional. At-home grooming attempts may result in accidental lacerations and burns. In an effort to save a few dollars, you may find yourself at the emergency clinic getting your pet stitched up.

Let the groomer know you would like at least an inch of fur left, though they should know this. Leaving too little fur puts your pet at risk for sunburn, and a clip too close to the skin puts your pet at risk for ingrown hairs and irritated skin.

Note: If you are considering shaving because your dog has developed hot spots, seek help from your veterinarian. Hot spots are tender and may make your pup snippy when being groomed.

Do Not Trim Dogs Who Have A Double Coat

“Double coated” dogs refers to breeds, such as Huskies, that have two layers of fur. The first layer of fur is referred to has an “undercoat” and consists of fine, fluffy hairs that are shorter. This is the layer that sheds the most but also allows for the dog’s natural insulation – keeping them warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

The topcoat of fur is typically tougher and protects your dog’s skin from sun rays and bugs. Therefore, there is no need to shave dogs with a double coat as they are naturally equipped to regulate their temperature. By shaving them, you could be doing more harm then good! Additionally, shaving a double coated dog can lead to strange regrowth leaving your pup less smooth/soft and more scruffy. Sometimes a coat can recover from being shaved but many times they do not.

When is a shave down a good idea?

While shaving your dog or cat down in attempts to help them beat the summer heat is typically discouraged, there are times the clip down may be of benefit. It a pet has a matted coat and is likely to often be wet, this pet’s thick damp coat is more likely to promote the development of skin infections or even to become a nest for flies. This can lead to a nasty condition quickly --maggots in the fur.

For the majority of our pets, if the fur isn’t already matted, keeping the coat well-brushed is key. Coats that are kept well-brushed and mat-free allow for good air circulation through the hair, which in itself can actually have a cooling effect. On the contrary, matted, unkempt hair coats stifle air circulation, do little to help cool the body, and make the pet more likely to develop skin infections such as hot spots. Even for dogs that are prone to hot spots, routine brushing is advised before jumping to the clip down. Simply put, daily brushing is a crucial part of your routine during the hot, summer months. 

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