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Should You Shave Your Pet for Summer?

Why shaving your dog or cat this summer may not be such a great idea.
By
WebMD Pet Health Feature
Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S

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?

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Generally, most experts recommend against shaving most pets, though there are exceptions. Veterinarians often advise against shaving cats and dogs for a simple reason: Your pet's hair isn't like yours.

Shaving Cats for Summer: Should You?

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.

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.

Shaving Dogs

Over the centuries, humans have bred some pets -- specifically 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.

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.

If You Shave Your Pet

If you do plan on shaving your pooch for summer, groomers and vets offer these simple tips:

  • Think about hiring a pro. Most of us have little experience grooming our dogs, and many pets can be skittish, raising the potential for painful accidents. It's a lot cheaper to take your pet to a groomer, Sonnenfield tells WebMD, than "to have to pay for a laceration repair."
  • Keep clippers cool.All it takes is a few minutes of use for clipper blades to get hot enough to burn your dog. "Take frequent breaks to let those clippers cool down," Stickney says, "and use the lubricant that often comes with them" to help clippers stay cool.
  • Leave an inch of hair. Leave at least one inch of hair when shaving your pet. This gives your pet enough coat to protect from sunburn and chilly summer nights.
  • No close shaves. Resist the temptation to shave your dog close to the skin. Not only do you raise the risk of painful sunburn, but a close shave can leave guard hair imbedded under the skin. "New hair won't grow until these ends fall out, causing irregular growth and often skin problems," says Linda Easton, an international certified master groomer.

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