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It’s the middle of summer, and I’m unbelievably hot and cranky. I have a heat rash. A couple of days ago I had to go to the emergency room to have a bee sting treated using intravenous antibiotics when my arm swelled up like Popeye’s. I love spring and fall, and I can kind of tolerate winter, but honestly, I could really do without summer, and I suspect that Janice and Leroy feel the same way. They pant in the heat, and even though Boxers are short-haired dogs, I suspect that there are times when they’d think that any type of fur coat is a bit much this time of year.
I have a friend who gets her cat shaved in the summer, and a while ago, she asked me why I don’t do the same for Janice and Leroy. Well, it’s because generally speaking, shaving your dog is not a good idea.
When summer rolls around, most of us shed our heavy clothes in favor of shorts, tank tops and so on. But we don’t dispense with all of our clothes. For one thing, it would probably offend the neighbors, and for another, it would make us very vulnerable to sunburn, no matter how much sunscreen we used.
Many of us go for a shorter haircut in the summer as well, because we can’t stand all that sweaty, damp hair hanging down on our necks. The thing is, though, your dog’s hair isn’t like yours.
Your dog’s hair is actually designed to protect your pet in the cold weather, and in hotter temperatures as well. It works to regulate your dog’s body temperature, and if you shave your dog, you’re actually interfering with his natural means of regulating his temperature.
A short-haired dog will actually get no benefit whatsoever from shaving. Longer-haired dogs, that are bred to exist in cold climates, also shouldn’t be shaved. Clipped, yes, but not shaved. Any dog that’s shaved is going to run the risk of sunburn, so even if you opt to clip your dog, you should still leave at least an inch of hair to protect him from harmful UV rays.
Now, if you have a dog that’s outside all the time (which is a bad idea, and you can refer to Can Dogs Live Outdoors Full Time for further information on this topic), you might want to consider a very close clip. This is because outdoor dogs, in hot weather, can be vulnerable to myiasis – in other words, maggots in your dog’s fur. If you think this is nasty, you bet it is! So rather than clip closely and still run the risk of myiasis, why don’t you just bring your dog indoors, with your family, where he belongs?
If you feel that you absolutely must shave your dog (and again, I strongly advise against it), at least hire a professional to do the job. Shaving can be difficult, and there’s a huge potential for painful accidents. So take your dog to the vet or a groomer to get the job done.
If you’re hell-bent on doing it on your own, at least let the clippers cool down periodically. The blades can heat up after just a few minutes of use, and your dog could suffer a bad burn. Also, use lubricant, and make sure to leave at least an inch of hair.
It might be tempting to shave your dog close to the skin, simply because it’s easier, but it’s a very bad idea. Not only are you running the risk of subjecting your dog to sunburn, you’re also taking a chance of causing ingrown hairs.
Instead of shaving, there are any number of things you can do to keep your dog cool in the summer months. Make sure he has plenty of cool, clean water. If it’s really hot, you might want to put some ice cubes n his bowl. Some dogs love crunching on ice!
Keep your dog out of the sun. It’s important that the air around your dog is cooler than his body temperature, so make sure he has access to shade.
If it’s extremely hot, bring your dog indoors. A dog’s body temperature is usually somewhere between 100 and 103 degrees, and when the temperature creeps up into that range, your dog is going to find it very difficult to cool off by panting.
Brush your dog regularly to help air to circulate around the skin. This also helps to prevent moist dermatitis, which is a very painful skin condition.
Buy your dog a wading pool – it’s a great way to cool off in the heat of the day.
Finally, never, ever leave your dog in a parked car, not even for a few minutes. More than a few dogs end up dying every summer because their owner was just going to dash into a store and come right back. It takes no time at all for a dog to overheat in a parked car, even with the windows down. So please just don’t do it.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, bad things happen. If your dog appears to be overheated – meaning that he’s panting or drooling excessively, has red gums, is vomiting, having trouble breathing or is lethargic – wrap him in cold, damp towels and get him to the veterinarian immediately. This is a life-or-death situation, so don’t waste time second-guessing – just GO!
Shaving your dog is probably not the worst idea in the whole world, but it’s not one of the best, either. There are other ways to ensure that your dog remains cool during the summer months, so pursue those avenues before you resort to the extreme measure of shaving your dog. The same goes for other pets as well – there are always better alternatives than shaving.