Pet Talk: Does your pet need a summer shave?

June 9, 2010

From College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University

The summer weather in Texas can become almost unbearable, especially here in the Brazos Valley. It’s the kind of weather that makes you realize how difficult it would be to survive without air conditioning. We Texans may complain about the intense summer heat, but probably won’t suffer nearly as much as animals that spend more time outdoors. The hot and humid weather can create miserable circumstances, especially for long-haired pets.

“Dogs that are bred in cooler temperatures can develop problems because of this heat,” said Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “For example, the heat makes it difficult for the dog to pant, which allows them to cool themselves down. Long hair also makes finding and removing ticks more difficult. With short hair, the ticks are much more easily recognizable.”

Then, there are the Texans’ all-too-familiar friends, the mosquitoes. “It is a myth that long-haired animals get bit by mosquitoes less than short-haired animals,” said Stickney.

If your animals are going to be outside this summer, there are some things to take into consideration. Make sure all animals have access to fresh water (cold, if possible) and some form of shade. The shade is necessary to help prevent sunburns, hot spots, and blistering on the bottom of more sensitive doggie paws. If you have a dog that is not usually outside, or is going to be outside for an extended period of time, sunscreen is an option to consider. There are sunscreens that are made specifically for dogs and can be applied to areas with less hair, such as the nose, ears and belly.

Another important fact to note is that dogs can have heat exhaustion and heat strokes, just like people. Owners should encourage high-energy dogs to take breaks when playing out in the sun because of this. Also, people who exercise with their dogs either with a bike or by jogging should keep in mind that dogs (especially smaller breeds) need to be conditioned to work up their stamina. So be mindful of Sparky’s capabilities before dragging him along on that 3-mile bike ride.

“Owners will sometimes make the mistake of grabbing a hose that has been lying out in the sun to spray down animals such as horses or dogs, but the hot water that has been sitting in the hose can scald them before the cooler water comes through,” said Stickney.

If you allow your cats to go outside, “the only problem would be mattes and/or hairballs in long-haired cats, but this can be managed by brushing them daily to help keep them clean,” said Stickney. Some people prefer the look of their cat when shaved, which is perfectly fine. However, there is no medical need to shave your cat unless they are having problems with these things.

Veterinarians will most likely hold different opinions about when or if to shave your pets, depending on the region you live in. Some might argue long hair on certain breeds will work as a cooling mechanism.

“This would not hold true in our climate because of the levels of humidity,” explains Stickney. “If your dog seems exhausted and overheated, ask your local veterinarian if shaving could be an option for you and your pet.”

By keeping an eye on your pet and exercising caution when exercising and cooling your pet off, the dog days of summer will be more enjoyable for everyone.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at http://tamunews.tamu.edu. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

From the June 9-15, 2010 issue

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