To shave or not to shave your dog?

Originally published in the Rolesville Buzz
July 2013

Summer brings with it high temperatures and sunny days, and it’s not surprising that you’re more comfortable in shorts and a tee shirt. Each year veterinarians, pet groomers and pet lovers have debates about the pros and cons of shaving thick coated or longhaired dogs during the summer months. From our human perspectives, higher temperatures mean less and lighter clothing. Unfortunately, this is probably not true for the majority of our pets.

Many people ask themselves, “Should I shave my dog in the summer?” and you may be one of them. Before you make that decision, you need to know the pros and cons.

The Advantages of Shaving Dogs for Summer

  1.  If your dog has a full-hair coat and lives in air conditioning or regularly lies on a cool surface, his coat can slow down cooling. The fur can also reduce cooling after he has been wet down with water.
  2. It’s much easier to keep your dog free of those annoying warm weather parasites when his coat is short. Fleas and ticks are easier to see and treat. If he’s a water baby and his coat is frequently damp, he will dry more quickly if he has had a haircut. This can prevent maggots making their home in his moist coat.
  3. If your dog is prone to hot spots, or bacterial skin infections, a summer shave can be helpful.
  4. Anecdotally, dogs that have been shaved appear to have more energy and be more comfortable being active. Many people who shave their dogs find that their dogs are happier, and they do it again each year.

Disadvantages of Shaving Your Dog in Summer

  1.  Your dog doesn’t have the same type of sweat glands on his body that we do. This means that he doesn’t rely on the evaporation of sweat to keep him cool.
  2. If your dog is outdoors in temperatures that go beyond 90 degrees, his coat can insulate him from solar heating.
  3. If you shave your dog too closely, his skin is exposed to more ultraviolet radiation and is at greater risk of developing skin cancer.
  4. Sometimes clipping your dog’s coat can affect his hair follicles, which makes his hair grow back very slowly or even in a different color. This problem seems to be more common in the Arctic breeds such as Malamutes or Huskies, and it can make them look quite ragged.

Guidelines for Shaving Dogs for Summer

After reading this, you may have decided that shaving your dog for summer is worth a try. If so, there are some guidelines that you should follow.

First, don’t shave him too closely. Leave a minimum of one inch of hair all over his body. This is enough to protect him from the sun and avoid sunburn. It will also help to prevent ingrown hairs, which can occur if his hair is shaved close to his skin.

Second, use the right equipment. Professional-grade clippers and a sharp blade will make it easier to trim your dog’s coat. Make sure you look after your clippers properly; use lubricant on the blades when needed and take a break to let them cool when they get too hot.

Last, give some thought to leaving it to the experts. Experienced groomers are less likely to accidentally cut your dog with clippers. They are also very skilled at styling, and your dog will look much smarter with a professionally styled cut.

How to Keep Dog Cool in Summer

Regardless of whether you do or don’t shave your dog, it’s important that you make sure he is comfortable during hot weather.

  • Brush your dog’s coat thoroughly and  regularly, ideally every day. If you remove the loose hair, air will be able to circulate more effectively at his skin level which will help to cool his body.
  • Give him access to fresh cold water at all  times. He may enjoy ice cubes added to his water bowl from time to time.
  • Provide your dog with shelter in an area shaded from direct sunlight. This could be something as simple as a shady tree in the back yard, allowing him access to the back deck or even putting up a shade cloth over a corner of the yard.
  • If the outside temperature is higher than  your dog’s body temperature of 100-103 degrees, then he will struggle to keep cool. Under these circumstances, bring him indoors.
  • Never, under any circumstances, leave  your dog in the car while you pop out to run an errand. It doesn’t matter if you’re only going to be gone a few minutes. The temperature inside a car can rise quickly, and that can be deadly to dogs left inside.