by Nicola Parry, DVM
The Dog Days Of Summer
There’s no doubt that the benefits of sun exposure outweigh the risks, for people and pets. But it’s important to always respect the sun and the hot temperatures during the summer months. Dogs can suffer in the heat of the summer, just like we can. And in addition to overheating in high temperatures, long-term exposure to solar radiation can lead to damage, or even cancer, of the skin.
Should I Shave My Dog’s Coat In The Summer?
Unlike us, dogs do not have sweat glands throughout their body. They deal with hot, humid weather mostly by panting, with minimal contribution from sweating through sweat glands on their footpads. Clipping your dog’s coat in hot weather can actually increase his risk of heat stroke, as well as skin damage from the sun.
This is because his coat actually insulates and protects him from hot temperatures as well as the cold. You can help him out at this time by making sure his longer hair is groomed well. Daily brushing of long coats is therefore a must in the warmer months. Keep his hair thoroughly brushed out, and remove the undercoat to improve air circulation through the coat, helping to keep his body cooler. For easy detangling of matted hair, use “Ruff To Smooth” on his coat. This leave-in conditioner comes in an easy to use spray formulation, and can be used on wet or dry coats. Simply spray on problem areas to relax stubborn tangles, and make grooming less stressful for everyone.
What If My Dog’s Coat Is Naturally Short?
Hairless dogs, or those with shorter coats, can be at a disadvantage in the summer. Since they lack the insulation that a longer coat provides, it is especially important to make sure they have cooler areas in which to rest during the summer, as well as plenty of shade. Their sparse hair coat can also leave them at increased risk of skin damage – especially in the case of dogs with white hair and pink skin.
Shorthaired dogs therefore also benefit from application of a non-toxic, waterproof sunscreen. This can be applied to areas where hair is sparse, especially those that tend to be affected most by the sun, such as the:
- Ear tips
- Top of the body
- Hairless regions of the underside of the body
If your dog is hairless, try putting a T-shirt on him when he is outdoors. This provides an effective sunblock for a large area of the body, and sunscreen can be applied to the regions that remain uncovered.
So be sure to protect your dog against the damaging effect of the summer. In addition to providing him with extra fresh water and plenty of shade in the summer months, you can take simple steps to prevent skin damage and overheating. Keep him cool and comfortable by grooming him regularly, but avoid shaving him. This can actually have the opposite effect to what you want, and may even leave you with an unexpected, expensive veterinary bill if he suffers from heatstroke.