SHOULD YOU SHAVE YOUR CAT / DOG IN SUMMER?
Summer arrives in a blaze of heat and sun, and most of us shed clothes until we're down to shorts or swimsuits. If less is more for us when temperatures spike, shouldn't it be good for our pets, too? Though it may seem like a no-brainer to shave your dog or cat when summer comes, does it really keep pets cooler?
Most experts and veterinarians recommend against shaving most pets, though there are exceptions; your pet's hair isn't like yours.
A pet's coat is designed by nature to keep it cool during the summer and warm in the winter. By shaving your pet you usually interfere with this built-in temperature regulation.
Let's not get confused between a good groom and a decent well maintained pet. Many pets need grooming, but a grooming does not mean it is right to remove all the hair.
The consequences of incorrect grooming (or a shaved pet!) can lead to:
- Inability to maintain body temperature the natural way
- Irritable skin conditions due to unusual exposure to textures like grass and carpets.
- Let's face it, the last one: Your pet looking really stupid.
A pet that needs grooming but does not get it will be exposed to:
- Matted fur
- Risk of chafing sores
- Limbs have limited movement due to matted fur
Cats, in particular, are very good at regulating body temperature and "really get no benefit from being shaved," says Mark J. Stickney, DVM, clinical associate professor and director of general surgery services at Texas A&M University's veterinary medical teaching hospital. Because cats are "so much smaller relative to their exposed surface area, they're just better at getting rid of extra body heat," Stickney tells WebMD. Cats are also almost always more mobile than dogs, so they can simply move to a shadier spot when temperatures rise.
Over the centuries, humans have bred some dogs to have thicker coats than others, and these breeds can sometimes use a little help cooling off during summer's heat, says Jean Sonnenfield, DVM, a veterinarian with Georgia Veterinary Specialists in Atlanta.
If you have a dog with a very thick coat who seems to suffer from the heat, some veterinarians suggest shaving them when the mercury rises. Resist shaving shorter-haired breeds because not only do they get no benefit from it, but they also run the risk of sunburn once shaved, says Stickney. Actually, any dog can suffer sunburn, so if you do shave your thick-coated dog, be sure to leave at least an inch of hair to protect your pet from the sun's rays.
It is always best to leave dogs with their natural coat, as long as it's maintained in good condition. A good brush and trim would help remove dead and excess hair. Double-coated breeds should never be shaved unless there's a medical reason to do so, as their undercoats act as an excellent insulator against the summer heat. It seems counterintuitive that an extra layer of fur would help a dog stay cooler, but it does. Air is a natural insulator, and air trapped between the hair follicles and hairs on your pet's body does a really efficient job of keeping body temperature in balance.
You may also want to shave a dog that stays outside all the time, has a matted coat, and is likely to be wet often. In these circumstances, a dog can develop an unpleasant condition called myiasis -- maggots in the fur. If your dog is prone to hot spots, a summer shave may be helpful, but discuss this with your vet first.