While people tend to dress differently depending on the season, most animals “wear” the same coat all year round. Shaving 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 for some animals.
Dr. Ashley Navarrette, Assistant Clinical Professor at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, discusses summer grooming and other techniques to help pets beat the heat.
“While some pets can benefit from thorough grooming, a dog’s full shave is generally not necessary unless there are mats involved,” Navarrette said. “Trimming can be useful in long-haired breeds to make the hair easier to comb, but it must be done by a professional to avoid injury.”
For dogs, the type of grooming required in the summer depends on the breed and coat type. An important distinction is that some dogs have hair that grows continuously in a single layer, while others have a specific type of hair called fur, which grows in two layers to a specific length.
“Some breeds require frequent grooming (eg 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 may be tempted to shave dogs with thick double coats, such as Siberian Huskies, Labradors, Australian Shepherds, and Pomeranians, but this thick coat is actually beneficial in hot weather. It serves as a natural insulator to help dogs thermoregulate themselves by creating a barrier of cool air in the coat.
“We often run into issues with shaving these breeds because the undercoat can grow back first and interfere with the growth of the guard hairs, or the main part of the coat that we see,” Navarrette said. “This can cause the coat to change after it grows back.”
In addition to cosmetic issues, shaving a dog’s fur can make them less tolerant of high temperatures due to the loss of natural insulation.
Rather than shaving dogs with thick fur, Navarrette recommends frequent brushing to remove excess hair.
“Brushing is 100% recommended, as many of these breeds will naturally thin the undercoat part of their coat during the warmer months,” she says. “If these hairs are not physically removed by brushing, combing or blowing, the coat may not serve its true purpose of keeping the animal cool.”
While grooming can certainly play a role in keeping dogs cool, there are plenty of other ways to ensure pets stay comfortable this summer.
“Whenever possible, I recommend that pets be kept in an air-conditioned environment,” Navarrette said. “I can understand that some dogs spend the majority of their time outdoors, and in those cases shaded areas can feel 10-15 degrees cooler and should be readily available.”
Whether indoors or outdoors, pets should always have access to fresh, clean water. Products like cooling mats can also help relieve the heat.
“Walking the dogs should be done early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the hottest hours of the day,” Navarrette said. “While temperature is a factor in keeping pets safe, it is also important to consider humidity, asphalt/concrete temperature, age and conformation of the animal ( for example, short-faced breeds are more prone to heat stroke), and health condition.”
Keeping all of these factors in mind is a great way to ensure your pet has a safe and fun summer. And before you pull out the clippers or head to a pet salon, ask yourself if your dog’s coat helps or hinders his ability to stay cool.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. The stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.