If you have a majestic Malamute or a puffball of a Pomeranian, shaving all that fur to keep her cool may seem like perfect sense. After all, it’s hot, and you’d be sweating under that thick coat.
But vets, breeders, and groomers agree that shaving isn’t a great idea. In fact, even the floofiest, double-coated dog regulates body temperature better with fur intact. How can that be? There’s some pretty cool science that explains how dogs get their chill on.
Keeping cool? It’s no sweat
Humans are incredibly good at temperature regulation. If you or I were wearing a wool sweater in the summer heat, our body would respond by producing tons of sweat, which evaporates on the skin, lowering your body temperature. By taking off that sweater, you’d expose more skin to the cooler air, evaporating more sweat, and cooling you more quickly.
Ever wonder why your dog’s tongue gets so big when she pants? She’s just trying to be cool!
Dog sweat glands are pretty much limited to the paw pads, so they have a very different two-part cooling strategy: panting and vasodilation. Panting provides 80% of a dog’s cooling power. She breathes rapidly, bringing cooler air into contact with the moist tissues inside her mouth and lungs, where that moisture can evaporate and dissipate heat. At the same time, the blood vessels in her head expand, allowing the blood to be closer to the surface to cool off before it cycles back deeper into her body.
What is all that hair for, anyway?
Many dog breeds and mixes sport a double coat. The term refers to a combination of long, stiff guard hairs and short, fluffy dense hairs, which is common to many breeds including retrievers, terriers, and herding breeds. The double coat is waterproof, protective, and insulates your dog not only from cold but also from heat! Just like the insulation in your house helps it to maintain a constant temperature, the insulating fluff of a double coat reduces temperature changes in your dog. That way, she doesn’t have to work as hard to stay comfortable.
Possible reasons to shave your double-coated dog
In certain circumstances, shaving a dog is recommended. These include:
- Older dog needs help to self-groom
- Dog needs surgery
- Neglect has led to severely matted hair
- Skin diseases like hot spots or myasis
- Some dogs just seem to prefer a summer cut
The dangers of shaving
- Their coat may take a long time to recover since the protective guard hairs grow much slower than the fluffy base layer.
- Greater risk of sunburn
- Greater risk of skin cancer
- Greater risk of heat stroke
Living with the fur
Shedding is a dog’s natural way of adjusting to seasonal changes, but it’s not fun to constantly brush dog fur off your clothes. Instead of shaving those luscious doggy locks, though, invest in some handy dog hair removal tools. And keep up that brushing routine! The FURminator is one of the best ways to tackle a dog’s undercoat.
The bottom line
Shaving your dog isn’t usually recommended, no matter how hot it gets. Their coat is actually helping them stay cool—yes, even when they’re as gloriously fluffy as that guy.
More hot weather tips
Heat stroke in dogs is a serious problem. Learn how to recognize it and intervene before things go south. These tips will help your dog keep cool—and this article has a handy list of summer-related health conditions for dogs.