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A Close Shave! Why our furry friends need their coat

So, excuse the pun, but this is a hot topic among dog owners. The key question being: “Can I shave my dog’s fur coat?” It seems logical – we look at our panting dogs and think that we couldn’t cope with a fur coat all day, so clearly they can’t – but we’re applying human logic to a canine problem. I’ll spare you the science of Newton’s Law of Cooling and its relation to dog fur, but the truth is simple: Dogs need their fur.

Pets
By Russell D Russell

Tuesday 4 September 2018, 09:00AM


It’s another shaggy dog story     Photo: Andrea Reiman

It’s another shaggy dog story Photo: Andrea Reiman

To start with, and this is quite important to consider on a number of levels, dogs are not humans. You’re certainly right to be concerned about your pet, particularly in those scorching hot days here in Phuket, and there are lots of things we can do to keep them cool and comfortable. However, as a general rule, shaving their fur doesn’t make the list. Indeed in a good number of cases, shaving, as you’ll see, can be far more damaging than you realise.

Fur: Natural Sunblock
When we get hot, we sweat - its our cooling mechanism. But dogs can’t sweat to cool themselves. They do have sweat glands in their paws, but these play a tiny role in their overall thermo­regulation. Panting is their main source of keeping cool. So having exposed skin doesn’t bring any practical benefit, but it can bring harmful side effects.

A dog’s coat acts as insulation from the sun’s hot and spicy UV rays and prevents them from getting down to the skin. We use factor 50, they use fur. It also acts to prevent the skin from warming as well as possible sunburn, heatstroke, or worse, skin cancer.

However, an exceptionally thick coat, that is packed or matted will prevent healthy air circulation needed for cooling, and it will make it difficult for your pet to stay comfortable in the heat. As such, regular grooming is required to keep the fur mat-free and remove dead hair that will otherwise build up in the coat. The brushing helps to maintain a breathable barrier that allows your dog to regulate his own body temperature naturally.

Double Up
Certain breeds, such as German Shepherds, Labs, Golden Retrievers and numerous others, have double coats (a top coat and an undercoat) which should never be shaved. Some dogs also have coats which grow to a certain length, stop and then sheds out – hence the constant hoovering!

While it’s more pronounced at certain times in the year, it’s a year-round thing. This is an important function of a healthy coat and skin and does not stop just because you shave the coat short. However, when the coat is shaved short, the hair may lack the weight to fall out naturally making it even more important to brush and bath regularly to encourage dead hair removal.

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If this is not done, the hair follicles may become clogged and problems such as poor or no hair regrowth, colour change, blocked follicles and skin problems can result. Weekly brushing with a shedding blade or hound glove and a monthly bathing can help prevent this.

You should also be aware that even with good post-shave care, some dogs’ coats do not grow back in the same way they did prior to shaving. Some dogs can also develop bald patches and their coat condition can decline with constant clipping, not to mention that dogs may also continue to scratch as if they still have a coat, which can irritate and even damage freshly clipped skin creating hot spots.

Keep Cool
Of course keeping our dogs cool on those hot sticky days is vitally important, but rather than adding fuel to the fire by shaving their fur, here’s some other things to try: Always ensure your dog has access to plenty of fresh, clean water and lots of shade.

You could also provide a shallow paddling pool for them to lie in – but make sure you refresh the water frequently and don’t leave it under direct sunlight. Purchase trampoline-style raised beds that allow air to flow underneath them. And of course, make sure they are brushed and groomed often to keep their coats in tip top shape.



For more information on canine training or behavioural issues, contact the Canine Point Academy at 091 654 1960. Alternatively, email info@k9pointacademy.com or visit K9PointAcademy.com.

CPA is the only K9 organisation in Thailand accredited with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), and as an American Kennel Club (AKC) Evaluator.

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