Come summer, and most dog-owners worry that their pets are overheating on account of the high temperature. Watching them pant constantly, with their tongues hanging out, galvanizes people to shave off coats to give their animals some relief. It seems a logical enough solution – thinning out the coat for better ventilation — until you find out how badly this action is actually hurting the animals.
The idea that double-coated dogs, like GSDs, Belgian Malinois, Samoyeds, Huskies, Malamutes etc., need shaving in summer to get rid of their thick, winter growth is a dangerous one because it ruins the animal’s natural coat growth pattern forever. And understanding double coats is important to raise awareness against such a detrimental practice.
WHY DOUBLE-COATED DOGS SHOULD NOT BE SHAVED
Double coats are basically 2 layers of hair growth that helps insulate a dog more efficiently against extreme cold weather. Long guard hairs provide outer-layer protection from snow, ice and moisture. And a second layer of soft undercoat sits close to the skin to hold and trap heat the same way multiple layering of clothes keep us warmer in winter.
During cold months, the undercoat grows thick and dense, but in summer, dogs shed this extra protection because they don’t need it. They only keep the top, guard layer of fur that still has an important function: to stop the animals from sunburn. With the undercoat gone, cool air can circulate through the long guard hair, and this is the natural order of things.
Shaving the dog upsets the balance completely, because the undercoat often grows first. The longer, outer layer comes in late, and when it does, it gets mixed in with the undercoat. So instead of two, neat layers with each performing its special function the fur is now growing in a tangled and disorderly manner, attracting and catching grass, twigs, burrs like velcro and obstructing air ventilation. And the dogs are way more uncomfortable as a result in hot weather.
The troubles don’t end there either. As the coat has basically been ruined permanently by shaving, the dogs will now suffer when the winter months come around again, because the new sticky texture will make the undercoat mat, causing aggravating skin conditions like yeast infections and hot spots.
WHY SHAVING CAN LEAD TO SUNBURN
The long guard hairs stay on during summer for a good reason: they act as a shield against sunburn. A lot of double-coated dogs have pale, pink skin that the long hairs protect by deflecting rays of direct sunlight. Cutting them down leaves the skin vulnerable to overheating, sunburn, and even skin cancer.
WHAT TO DO THEN?
The most practical solution is to use a rake to remove dead undercoat hair from the skin surface during summer. With that debris out of the way, the long guard hair can do it’s job of cooling the animals more efficiently.
If you take your dogs to the groomers, make very certain that the groomer knows you do not want shaving. Since lots of dog-owners expect the hair to be cut and shaved during summer months, groomers sometimes go ahead and do it unless otherwise instructed.
WHAT ABOUT SINGLE-COATED DOGS?
You can trim hair on single-coated dogs with no undercoat to complicated matters. But shaving is never a good idea. Just trim if you must, and let the dog be.