It’s So Hot! Should You Shave Your Dog to Keep Them Cool?

A fluffy white dog

For people, it makes sense to trim long hair during the hottest months of the year, but this is not the case for dogs. Instead of adding to their safety and comfort, shaving their coats too close to the skin not only exposes them more severely to the elements, but provides little defense against the heat. 

It’s counterintuitive at best, but if you’re wondering if you should shave your dog this summer the answer may be a resounding “no”.

Special Fur Features

Dogs have especially thin skin, a fact that necessitates the importance of a clean, mat-free coat of hair. Their coat actually keeps them warm all winter long and cools them down when they get hot. In other words, when you shave your dog down to their skin, they actually have less protection against the heat, not more. 

Sunburn, skin damage, dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are just a few things that can result from overexposure to the sun’s harmful rays.

Different Anatomy

Dogs have an average of 5-22 hairs per follicle that are all in a constant state of growth. New hairs are always growing, old ones are falling out, and the rest are in between stages.

There are many different types of canine coats ranging from long to smooth, flat to curly, wire to hairless. The most common type of coat is the double coat which has a soft insulating layer beneath a weather-resistant outer coat. The undercoat typically sheds when the weather warms up, leaving the outer coat to ventilate and protect the skin – in this way, dogs are naturally protected from weather extremes.

Why You Shouldn’t Shave Your Dog

Double-coated breeds can have either long or short hair. Clipping a double-coated dog can have lasting effects on the appearance and quality of their coat, and shaving can permanently damage the hair follicles. The undercoat may grow back with a rough, scratchy texture, and the once water-resistant out coat may no longer stand up to the elements.

Additional Reasons

If you ever shave your dog with a double coat you may also find that their coat picks up debris, dirt, seeds, grass and other plant life. This happens because the undercoat combines with the guard hairs, or outer coat. This compact growth can prevent cooling in summer by absorbing heat.

Perhaps what’s worse is that in winter, a double-coated dog that was shaved earlier in the year is now more prone to mats and skin irritations, like hot spots.

Dogs That Can Be Shaved

Dog breeds that don’t have double coats can be shaved, but they must be protected from the elements in other ways. Pet sunblock, clothing, rests in the shade, and regular intake of water will ward off the negative effects of the sun and heat. 

Single-coated breeds have hair that keeps growing, necessitating regular appointments at the groomers. Depending on their lifestyle, single-coated breeds can be shaved down. 

The Alternative

Non-stop shedding can be a headache. The best defense against a long, overgrown double-coated dog is to routinely brush, comb, and blow dry the hair after an invigorating shampoo and conditioning application. 

Always be super clear and concise with your groomer about your expectations and preferences. If you have further questions about whether or not to shave your dog, we’re always here for you at Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital.