Summer in NC is hot, humid, and long. Somewhere around the middle of March every year, the temperature spikes and the phone starts ringing nonstop. Summer shavedown season has begun. Many owners, however, remain “on the fence” about whether or not to shave. There is no easy answer here, unfortunately.
Vets and owners don’t seem to agree on the issue of whether it even helps them cool off to remove the coat. On one side, science tells us No No No! But honestly, in my 15 years experience, not one single customer has ever told me their dog was hotter after being shaved.
Also there is the possibility that the coat may not grow back. What is mysterious to me is that you can never tell exactly when, or if, it will cease to regrow at some point. We recently had a chow mix in who we have shaved several times a year for the last 2 years. This past visit his coat grew back stubbly, fuzzy, and dappled with white hairs, completely out of the blue, and we did nothing different!
If you have a shavedown candidate, here are some things to consider:
• Will removing the coat help them stay cool? There is a lot of info online about how the function of the hair follicle is to disburse heat from the skin to provide a steady temperature within the coat. Also, note that humans’ skin cools without hair b/c we sweat. Dogs have no sweat glands in their skin, so exposing the skin to air does not help in the same way that it helps humans.
Disclaimer: My clients continually tell me how much cooler their pets are after being shaved, so I, too, am on the fence here… tragically I did know of one situation where a black chow mix was shaved in the summer, and sadly died of heat stroke the next day. She was a “backyard” dog, very unkempt and with no indoor access, however, which is definitely NOT the situation of the majority of our pets.
• Will it grow back differently? One theory about hair regrowth involves the hair growth cycles, anagenic, and telogenic. I am more inclined to think it has to do with hormonal/endocrine changes as pets age, because in my experience the older the pet is, the more affected the coat is by shaving.
• Cancer Risk: Dogs are much more likely to get skin cancer, having their fair skin suddenly exposed to the sun. This can be mitigated by applying a canine sunscreen, but cannot be entirely prevented.
So unfortunately, like all else in life, there is no easy answer. It is a weighing of risks and benefits, and entirely dependent upon your companion’s individual situation. Read this article also, it makes some good points on both sides. I hope this information helps you make the best decision for your dog and you! And whether you decide to go with a thorough comb-out or a shave, we have experienced groomers here when you need us! 🙂