If you have a dog that spends most of its time romping in your backyard, or a kitty that whiles away the day in a sunny patch on the front porch, winter's arrival may be a rude awakening. Sure, your precious pets are covered in fur. But many just aren’t equipped to be out in frigid temperatures for prolonged periods.
So how can you make sure your four-legged friends are warm and well-cared for when the mercury dips? WebMD talked to veterinarians and pet owners and got their top tips on winter safety...
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.
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.