To shave or not to shave your dog? That is the question many pet parents face when the temperatures heat up outside. On the one hand, it might make sense to shave a dog’s coat in the summer, especially if the dog has a long coat. However, shaving your dog in the summer is generally not a good idea.
At face value, this may not make much sense: you don’t wear a coat in the summer, so why should your dog? Before you start imagining creative haircuts for your pooch, it’s important to understand how dog coats work and just how much dogs need them, even when it’s 100 degrees outside.
Understanding Your Dog’s Coat
There are two generally types of dog coats: single and double. A single coat has only one layer of hair, called the topcoat. The topcoat provides protection from harmful UVA and UVB radiation and protects the skin from rain and pesky summer bugs. Shih Tzus and Poodles are single-coated breeds.
Double coats, found on such breeds as Pomeranians and Siberian Huskies, have a topcoat and undercoat. The topcoat on double-coated dogs consists of coarse guard hairs that keep the undercoat dry and protect it from bug bites. The soft undercoat is dense in the winter to retain heat and becomes less dense in the summer to keep a dog’s body cool.
Double-coated dogs are prolific shedders. They “blow” their coats in the summer to remove their winter coat (a dense undercoat) and replace it with a summer coat (a finer, less dense undercoat). These blow sessions, which can be massive, can have pet parents cleaning up bags full of loose hair. Despite the nuisance of endlessly cleaning up dog hair, coat blowing helps keep double-coated dogs comfortable in the summer.
The Dangers of Shaving Your Dog’s Coat
Because a dog’s coat is so important to keeping him cool and comfortable when it’s hot outside, shaving the coat may do more harm than good. For example, shaving a double-coated dog removes his protective topcoat and leaves him vulnerable to dangers like sunburn, skin cancer, bug bites and even heat stroke. Shaving a double-coated dog can also result in patches of hair that don’t grow back or the undercoat growing back faster than the topcoat, causing a matted topcoat and hair follicle damage.
Shaving a single-coated dog can be done occasionally, but the topcoat should not be completely shaved off. Completely shaving a dog’s topcoat can expose them to the same dangers as double-coated dogs. In addition, note that the shaved hair on a single-coated dog may grow back softer or in a different color. It is best to have the topcoat clipped by a professional groomer.
Alternatives to Shaving
As you can see, a shaved dog is not necessarily a cool or happy dog. So how else can you keep your dog cool in the summer? Here are a few suggestions:
- Groom your dog regularly. Grooming a dog includes brushing the fur and bathing. Fur that is clean and brushed improves air circulation through the coat. For dogs with long hair, grooming also includes trimming the long hair to make it more manageable during the summer. A professional groomer is best qualified to trim and clip the hair without overdoing it.
- Provide unlimited access to cool, fresh water. Just like humans, dogs need to stay well-hydrated in the summer. Drinking cool and fresh water, especially after being outside, will help your dog cool down.
- Make sure your dog has access to shade when outside during the summer. Access to shade will give your dog a break from the heat of the sun.
—-By Dr. JoAnna Pendergrass