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Shaving dogs in the summer

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In the heat of summer, many pet owners opt for shaving their dog. But before heading to the groomer, it’s a good idea to know all the facts before you shave your dog.

Dogs sweat from their paws. This means that in many cases, having a long coat does not significantly affect the dog's body temperature. Still, Carol Johnson, a professional groomer and contributor to critterhaven.net, offers good reasons to consider shaving:

  • Your dog is a swimmer
  • Your dog is too matted to detangle
  • Your dog is too old or sick to tolerate a good comb-out
  • Fleas and ticks are easier to spot
  • Shaving can reduce shedding
  • Your dog is prone to hot spots, fungal conditions or is unusually smelly

But in a recent MedHelp.org article, Aleda Cheng, DVM, warns that shaving the coats of northern breeds such as Siberian huskies or Samoyeds, or double-coated breeds such as German shepherds, could cause an irreversible change in the hair. She adds that veterinary dermatologists “frown upon shaving shelties (Shetland sheep dogs) because their coats can take years to regrow.”

Case study

Dr. Eric Maddon, a veterinarian with a practice in Brooklyn, N.Y., describes the case of Queenie, a pomeranian who was shaved down to the skin one summer. Within a month, her luxurious coat had started to come in. The following summer, her owner shaved her again, only to find that regrowth, even after months, was negligible. Maddon ran some tests to rule out thyroid problems and learned that Queenie had developed alopecia—failure to regrow fur, a condition common to her breed. She is now on a regimen of nutritional supplements – melatonin and flaxseed oil – and her fur is slowly beginning to return. But it probably will not return to its original thickness. For this reason, it’s best not to shave to the skin, but to leave at least an inch of fur.

Sun protection 

Another issue to consider is sun protection. Dogs are susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer, just like people. Closely shaved dogs need sunscreen protection. According to Dr. Susan Nelson, a veterinarian and assistant professor of clinical sciences at Kansas State University’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital in Manhattan, Kan., any PABA-free sunscreen will work. She is partial to sports-type sunscreens because they’re waterproof. Sprays are fine too, as long as full coverage is obtained.

Other reasons not to shave a dog include:

  • For double-coated dogs, fur protects against biting flies and mosquitoes.
  • Some dogs feel “naked” and vulnerable without their coats.

A dog may continue to scratch as if it still had its coat, and can irritate the freshly clipped skin, creating hot spots.

It’s important to weigh all the relevant factors before making that cut. If there’s any doubt, consult with a veterinarian to discuss whether shaving is a good or safe option for your dog.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas,V.M.D.
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