Summer in Kansas City is hot, and our dogs notice the heat just like we do. We all know that proper hydration and keeping a close eye are important to making sure our dogs stay safe this summer, but you have probably noticed some dogs with normally long coats sporting a buzz cut. This practice has become more popular in recent years. Wearing a fur coat in the summer doesn’t sound pleasant, so the same logic should apply to our dogs, right?
Well, not really. Dogs don’t sweat all over to cool off like humans do. They sweat minimally through their paws, but they get rid of most of their excess heat by panting. Their coats are actually designed to insulate them throughout the year; from cold in the winter, and from heat in the summer. Most long and double-coated breeds shed excess hair as the weather gets warmer, but their bodies are designed for this and taking the clippers to them isn’t optimizing the process.
Sunburn is a major risk for shaved dogs. Breeds with light pigmentation are particularly susceptible. Taking away their coat removes all the natural protection that they have, and exposed skin can actually result in making them overheat more easily.
Along with sunburn comes an increased risk of skin cancer. Dogs with fur are not designed to withstand direct exposure to UV rays, and prolonged or excessive exposure can lead to life-threatening problems.
Skin irritations like hotspots can flare up, especially immediately following a few passes of the clippers. You may be noticing a pattern here; dogs’ skin is not equipped to deal with the things that human skin is exposed to on a regular basis.
Fortunately, there are some things we can do without resorting to a shave. Regular grooming is always important, but some extra attention can be a big benefit when shedding season starts. Increasing the frequency of brushings help to remove dead and excess hair, as well as spread the oils in your dog’s coat that help to keep their fur and skin healthy. If you own a breed with a double coat (Husky, German Shepherd, etc.) an undercoat rake will pull the hair from the undercoat that they shed out the most. This will help to keep air flowing through their outer coat, and make them less prone to itching and scratching. If you want a thorough de-shedding treatment, a trip to your groomer can get a lot of the hard work out of the way early on, leaving you with just some routing after-care.
Since dogs do sweat a bit through their paws, keeping the hair between their pads trimmed can help them stay cooler as well. This can be done with a pair of scissors or a trimmer, but if you are uncomfortable doing so or your dog tends to wiggle around when you groom their feet, you can always have your groomer take care of it for you. An added bonus, without excess hair covering their paw pads, your dog will be able to get more traction, especially on slick surfaces like wood or tile floors.
If you have a dog that is prone to matting, keeping their coar tangle-free is crucial. A matted coat can prevent proper airflow and contribute to overheating. If your dog has a coat that matts easily, ask your vet or groomer for help with any concerns about maintenance.
As always, consult with your veterinarian before making any major changes to your dog’s coat. They can provide advice and let you know about anything that you need to watch for.