When the mercury climbs, it's natural to wonder how your long-haired pup is coping. After all, the last thing you'd do when the sun's beating down is to don a fur coat! Even so, shaving isn't necessarily the step you should take to help your pup beat the heat. In fact, his coat is achtulaly more functional during a heatwaves than you think! Instead, find out what else you can do to help your bud survive the summer sun.
It makes sense that Buster's fur helps keep him warm in the cold weather, and it may seem logical that less hair would be suitable in summer. However, that same coat provides relief from the heat just as it does from cold. Just as your home's insulation keeps heat inside during the winter and out during the summer, your pooch's fur does the same thing. If he has a double coat, his undercoat traps a layer of body temperature around his skin while the long hair in his top coat provides a protective layer. Dogs with single coats don't have this built-in air conditioning, but their fur does protect them from sunburn and skin cancer.
Thinning Out Helps
If Buster's a dog more suited to cold weather, such as a Malamute, a day as warm as 90 degrees Fahrenheit may be more than he can handle, whether he has natural air conditioning or not. Thinning his coat with a wire or rake brush will remove a bit extra fur, yet still provide the natural benefit his coat provides. Thinning and daily grooming of his coat allows for air to circulate, keeping him cooler on hotter days without taking off his coat entirely.
A Little Off the Top
If you DO make the decision to cut Buster's hair, proceed with caution. A close shave may work for you, but it's not right for him. His coat still performs the same function, whether his hair is long or short, double- or single-coated -- it insulates and protects. When you shave off all his fur, he's fully exposed to the heat and sun. Dogs don't sweat. Having exposed skin only leaves him vulnerable to sunburn. Leave at least an inch of fur on your pooch. If Buster's a short-haired breed, leave his coat alone, because he runs the risk of sunburn.
Keeping It Cool
Before you take the clippers to Buster, try a few other things first. Keeping him indoors in a cool house is the best option. If he must stay outside, make sure he has plenty of shade for refuge. No matter where he is, he should have access to plenty of fresh, clean water. Keep your walks in the evening, when it's cooler. Frozen water bottles filled with water in Buster's bedding will help keep him cool. If he displays any signs of heatstroke -- excessive panting, rapid heartbeat, staring or vomiting -- lower his body temperature by spraying a hose on him or getting him in a tub or shower, and get him to the vet as soon as possible.
By Betty Lewis
WebMD: Should You Shave Your Pet for Summer?
ASPCA: Heat Wave! Should You Shave Your Pet?
American Animal Hospital Association Healthy Pet: Should I Shave My Thick-Furred Dog in the Summer?
High Plains Veterinary Hospital: To Shave or Not to Shave
Mobile Pet Care Clinic of Texas: Thinking About Shaving Your Dog's Hair Coat for The Summer? Think Again.
About the Author
Betty Lewis has been writing professionally since 2000, specializing in animal care and issues, business analysis and homeland security. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from West Virginia University as well as master's degrees from Old Dominion University and Tulane University.