The Great Shave Debate
As temperatures rise many owners begin seeking ways to keep their pups comfortable throughout the summer. I am asked quite frequently to shave dogs to help them stay cool and this is a great option for some breeds but most certainly not all.
Dogs generally fall into one of two categories : single coated or double coated.
Single coated breeds tend to have hair that will continually grow longer and include dogs like Shih-Tzus, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, and Lhasa Apsos. These breeds can be shaved and styled short with little to no negative impact on their hair.
Double coated breeds tend to have thick fur that does not continually grow longer and include breeds like Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Siberian Huskys. Breeds with double coats are not meant to be shaved and doing so can be detrimental to both their skin and coat.
Breeds with a double coat have two layers : undercoat and guard hairs.
Undercoat is what you will usually find materializing as tumble weeds and the fur that you find around your house. This coat typically protects some breeds from snow or extreme cold (Siberian Huskys, Akitas, Chow Chows); or from water (Golden Retrievers, Labradors, German Shepherds).
Guard hairs are the (usually) longer hairs that lay over the undercoat.
When a double coated breed is shaved down both coats are shaved but the dense undercoat will grow back first, oftentimes thicker and fluffier than before. Shaving disrupts the growth cycle and the outer guard hairs may take a long time to grow back; if they do grow back.
This is where a vicious cycle begins - owners want their dogs to stay cool, but their coat is designed to keep them cool in hot environments and warm in cold environments. When the undercoat grows back in first it essentially acts as an insulator and dogs lose their ability to regulate their body temperature - the heat becomes trapped; imagine wearing a wool sweater in the summer.
Guard hairs are no longer there to protect the undercoat from becoming soaking wet or deter burrs from becoming stuck. This also leaves dogs unprotected from sunburns, scrapes, and other environmental hazards the guard coat would usually provide protection against. When a wet undercoat is not dried properly it can cause a myriad of other issues - undercoat can become matted and take hours to dry causing a prime environment for mildew (Yes, unfortunately I have seen this several times) and other gnarly skin conditions.
Dogs that are shaved become susceptible to many different conditions - heat stroke, sunburn, alopecia, and skin cancer among many others.
Correct grooming for double coated breeds include nail/ear maintenance, bathing, and a good blow out with a high velocity dryer. There will be times throughout the year that your dog will "blow their coat" and shed even more than usual, but that is a topic for another post!
Never go against your veterinarians advice, in some cases due to various conditions the most effective option for treatment may involve shaving your pet.
Oak City Pets and many other grooming salons offer Low Shed or De-Shed services for dogs which involves thorough undercoat removal through extra brushing and high velocity drying. Not only is this the best option for your dog but also your wallet as well - chances are a shave-down on your dog is going to be a lot more expensive than regular maintenance through bathing and brushing.