I don’t think Hamlet had pets.
But even if he did, he might ponder the notion of pets’ well-being with a fantastic soliloquy: “To shave or not to shave? That is the question.” And, actually, it’s a big question.
If you want to do a cautious clip-down or shave, the goal is a happy pet with a coat that is easier to maintain. Trimming your pet’s sand-, sea- or mud-ridden coat is one thing, but shaving just because it’s hot out is quite another. In any case, it’s important to stay on top of the stuff that can cause your little sea-monster pup irritation, but here are some thoughts.
Coats Naturally Keep Pets Cool in the Summer
Lots of folks want to “shave their dog down for summer.” I’m talking goldens or even sometimes Northern breeds who don’t usually get clipped, coifed and blow-dried like a poodle.
But most veterinary dermatologists and experts advise against shaving your dog or cat down for the intense heat of summer months. The overriding theory is that pets’ coats are designed to keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. This is not a theory, in my opinion. This is a fact.
A moderate clip or shave on your dog or long-haired cat in the summer months can help you attend to the coat. Hygiene is truly the only reason you should shave your pet.
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Tell Your Groomer: Leave at Least 1 Inch
This is a major pet peeve for me (pardon the pun), as I have seen dogs and cats shaved down a little too close for comfort by clipper-happy groomers.
It is very easy for a groomer to put on that major grooming blade and shave your pet down to their skin. Do not let them do this — tell them they need to leave at least 1 inch of fur before they start. If the groomer says the dog is too matted, ask more questions. It is rare that dogs are so badly matted that they need a surgical clip.
Leave 1 inch of hair, fur, whatever you want to call it, but don’t let a groomer denude your dog or cat. Some of my Golden Retriever patients come in at this time of year shaved down to their skin. There is no reason for this.
Your dog and cat need that fur. They are not hipsters — they will not benefit from a shaved head with a little beard. And they cannot buy a hat to shield them from the elements.
3 Things That Happen When You Shave Too Close
Our pets were built with an in-house layer of sun and winter protection, otherwise known as their coat. When we mess with it, we have to be responsible for the consequences.
If your pet’s coat is cut down too close to the skin, here are a few things that may occur:
1. Pets can get a sunburn.
Yes, this happens. When I see any animal shaved down to the skin, particularly light-skinned dogs like Goldens, yellow Labs, huskies or samoyeds, they better watch it in the sun. They were born with a coat of protection, and we need to respect it.
2. Northern breeds’ coats may grow in poorly.
Speaking of the shaved Husky or samoyed, watch those Northern breeds. These include huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Norwegian elkhounds and samoyeds. These dogs are not supposed to lose their coats. The coats often grow in poorly if shaved. It is never recommended to shave these breeds.
This video explains more:
3. Pets may (or may not) feel shame over their lack of fur.
You may laugh, but let me tell you, many of my patients get upset with the clip-down. They act vulnerable. They don’t know what happened to themselves, particularly if the groomer cut them down too close to the skin.
Other dogs love the free feeling and relish this lack of fur. Just don’t let that groomer get crazy with the clipper — always talk about your pet’s needs first.
Happy swimming and happy trails for you and your best friends. If they get wet, dry them off and don’t let them sit in a big wet mess (mats can form this way).
You know, just treat them like we would treat ourselves. Give them a vigorous toweling-off and enjoy the summer!
This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was last reviewed June 15, 2016.