It’s almost that time of year again! Sunshine, beaches and lots of HEAT! Once all of this rain dries up, of course. Some pet parents will start thinking about getting their fur-babies shaved for the season to keep them cool but WAIT!! Depending on what breed of dog you have, it might not be a good idea! I will let you know why, as well as some tips for keeping them cool during the approaching hot summer days.
As a broad categorization, there are two types of coats in dogs: double and single coats. The names are pretty straight forward, but I will elaborate.
Single coated breeds have a single layer of hair covering their bodies. This hair can be wire-type, soft, thick, long like human hair, etc. It is generally pretty easy to manage (unless you have a curly coated breed, such as a poodle) and brushed through quickly. Breeds that have single coat types are Poodles, Bichon Frise, Maltese, Papillons, Weimaraner, as well as many short coated breeds such as Dobermans, Bulldogs, German Short-Haired Pinschers, etc. The list goes on, but it is mainly the long-haired ones I mentioned first that could be shaved. This hair doesn’t do much as far as temperature regulation and shaving does not affect their ability to thermoregulate significantly. It is not advised to shave them too short to avoid sunburn, but it is not a health risk to trim them down.
Double coated breeds have, as the name indicates, two different layers of hair. The “undercoat” is generally denser and shorter and if not brushed out often can compact to the skin. This will then create skin irritation since bacteria and dirt will get trapped and not allow the skin to breathe. Even when shaved this can happen so if you do end up shaving a double coated breed, make sure to still brush them often. Double coated breeds include Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Aussies, Havanese, Great Pyranees, German Shepherds, etc. If you have a breed with a double coat, it is NOT advised to shave them for the summer! This may make them easier for you to brush, but it messes up their ability to regulate their body temperature. This double coat actually protects them from the heat by reflecting sun and essentially insulating them from high temperatures. Shaving them exposes their skin to the sun and allows more heat to penetrate their bodies. As an example, see the picture below of a partially shaved dog. The part where they are shaved is almost 7 degrees Celsius warmer than the part with long hair!
Something that is becoming more popular is for owners to get booties for their dogs for summer, not just winter. If you are worried about your dog getting burned paws from hot cement and asphalt, you can do this, but it is advised to just walk in shaded or grassy areas where you can. Dogs sweat through their paws, not on their whole body, so you risk messing with their temperature regulation.
Here are some tips to keeping your pups nice and cool in this approaching hot weather!
Provide lots of water! For drinking and for playing in. Like I mentioned above, dogs do not sweat like people in order to cool off. They use panting in order to evaporate water on their tongue and in their lungs to cool down. This dries out their mouth quickly so provide LOTS of water for them to drink in order to keep them from getting dehydrated. We also recommend getting a kiddie pool for them to lay in to cool off. After a dunk in the pool, make sure they dry completely before the day is done to avoid hot spots developing.
Cooling mats! There are mats that you can get at your local pet store that are filled with PET SAFE, NON TOXIC gel. The gel in these mats feels cool to the touch and can help them cool down when laid on. You can put them in the fridge or freezer for some extra cooling action!
Provide shade! It seems like a no brainer, but providing shade can save a dog, or a person, from heatstroke. Direct sunlight heats animals up very quickly. An umbrella, a dog house, a gazebo, a tree! Anything to get out of the sun. Especially breeds that aren’t meant to be in hot weather, such as Malamutes, Huskies, and Saint Bernards. These breeds are meant for snow so hot weather can affect them quickly.
Give ice cubes as a treat in hot weather! A lot of dogs love to munch on, or just play with, ice cubes in any weather, but it can help them cool down in hot weather.
Those are all of our tips for the summer weather that is coming up fast! Hope this helps some pet parents keep their fur-babies cool this year.