With climate experts suggesting summer could be facing its hottest summer ever this year, well-meaning dog owners shouldn’t try to help their dogs out in the heat with a haircut, experts say.
While removing heavy layers is a smart first choice for overheating humans, shaving or cutting your canine’s coat can mess with their built-in “heating and cooling system”.
Animates marketing manager, Nathalie Moolenschot – on behalf of the company’s groomers – told Stuff that dogs with a double coat – such as huskies, golden retrievers and malamutes – have a natural ability within their fur to insulate in the cold and keep cool in the warm weather.
“Shaving them can disrupt this insulation and make them more susceptible to heatstroke,” she says.
Sally Cory, New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) head of veterinary services, said the primary difference is that humans sweat through their skin, whereas dogs don’t.
Instead, that coat, “does have an internal climate control,” she said.
”In the summer, when it’s really hot, that’s actually trapping cool air.”
When those coats are shaved or cut dramatically, the coat can also grow back differently, so, “you can actually be affecting that function for a long time”.
SPCA chief scientific officer, Dr Alison Vaughan, adds that cutting too close to the skin can increase the animal’s risk of sunburn.
“Their coat offers protection against the sun, so their coat should not be shaved down to the skin,” she said.
Because dogs have sensitive skin, that risk is not only sunburn, says Cory, but can increase the risk of insect bits and allergic reactions.
Moolenschot does say, however, you can provide regular trims in areas where the hair is particularly thick, such as around the neck, armpits, and groin. If unsure, it’s best to consult an expert, such as a groomer.
Haircuts aside, there are plenty of ways owners can keep their canine safe and comfortable in the summer months, says Cory, including having a shaded space available, always having access to clean drinking water and being aware of the time of day you exercise your dog – sticking to early morning or evening on hot days.
It’s also vital dogs aren’t left in hot cars.
“They can overheat very quickly,” she says.
“Be really careful on humid days,” she says, as increased humidity can affect the dog’s ability to pant – which is how dogs cool themselves.
Vaughan also recommends always having water on hand when taking the dog out, providing cool surfaces such as tiles or cooling mats and giving your dog access to a paddling pool or taking them out for a swim.
If you’re concerned your dog may be overheating, Cory advises obvious signs include excessive panting and heavy breathing.
“They start to drool and quite quickly they can get weak.”
Dogs can also start shaking and sometimes vomit, and their gums may turn a “bright red”.
Heatstroke can progress quickly, and can result in your dog collapsing and fitting.
“It can happen fast,” she says.
High risk dogs include older animals, overweight or canines with underlying health issues. Flat-faced dogs such as pugs are also at higher risk as their, “ability to lose heat through panting is already compromised”.
If you’re concerned your dog may be overheating, Cory advises against using ice, or ice-cold water to cool them down.
She suggests using cool water, wet towels and turning a fan on at the same time, while seeking vetiranary advice.