UK heatwave: Should I shave my pet’s fur in extreme temperatures?

·4-min read
Should you shave your pet in a heatwave? (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Should you shave your pet in a heatwave? (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

To say that it is really hot in the UK right now is an understatement, and conditions are about to get worse.

The current heatwave will see extreme temperatures as high as 37C hitting the south of England next week, with a “danger to life” weather warning extended until Tuesday (19 July).

The Met Office has warned that the severe conditions will likely cause serious illness and endanger lives, and there is a one in five chance that Britain could record its hottest ever temperature next week.

The intensely hot temperatures is not just being felt by people, but by our pets too. Seeing them visibly uncomfortable in the heat can be distressing.

As our beloved furry friends pant and search for cool, shady spots to get away from the relentless heat, it might be tempting to think that shaving their fur will help them cool down.

Follow the latest updates on the UK heatwave here

But is it a good idea?

Dr Samantha Webster, veterinarian at Joii Pet Care, warns pet owners to “back away from the clippers”.

“It may seem counterintuitive, but clipping pets’ fur can actually make them hotter instead of cooler,” she tells The Independent.

 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Although humans might think that shorning a dog or cat of their fur might be akin to taking off a layer of clothes, this isn’t the case.

Dr Webster explains: “During hot weather, pets’ fur holds a layer of cool air next to their body to stop them from overheating.

“Whilst a trim of a long or unruly coat might be helpful, pet parents should never shave pets down to the skin.”

Even when it comes to pets that appear to have very thick coats, such as huskies, Dr Webster says the same principle applies.

“Huskies have what is known as a double coat, which means that the underlayer is a layer of fine soft hair close to the skin, and this is what keeps them warm in the winter and cool in the summer,” she says, warning owners to “definitely not clip that”.

 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

However, dog breeds with double coats, including huskies, golden and Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, Pomeranians, chows, and corgis, could benefit from regular trims and grooming.

“Double-coated breeds shed a lot and brushing out that shedding undercoat will help improve airflow near the body, keeping them cool,” Dr Webster says.

If you’ve already taken the well-meaning, but ill-advised step of shaving your pet, you may need to take extra measures to protect them from the sun, she tells The Independent.

“Clipping or shaving a pet’s fur means they get more direct sunlight on their skin, which can lead to an increased risk of overheating, heat stroke and sunburn.

“The good news is that fur grows back,” she adds. “Until that happens, pet parents should limit how much time the pet spends in direct sunlight, apply pet suncream and follow the below tips to help the pet keep cool.”

So, don’t shave your pets even if they appear hot and uncomfortable during the heatwave. Instead, Dr Webster recommends taking other measures to help keep them cool.

Brushing their fur regularly to remove loose hair and prevent matting helps to allow better air circulation near the skin.

 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

If your pet’s fur is badly matted or too long, take them to a professional groomer who can help them feel better.

A groomer will also be able to trim fur around the feet, where pets sweat, or around their tummy and legs to help keep them cool.

Additionally, making sure they have access to cool water and shade is essential to keeping pets comfortable during the heatwave.

Dog owners should only take their pooches out for walks during the coolest parts of the day, Dr Webster says.

“If it’s too hot, then skip the walk altogether,” she recommends. “Over-exercising in hot weather is the most common cause of heatstroke in dogs.”

Dr Webster also emphasised the importance of never leaving your dog unattended in a hot car, adding: “It can take as little as 10 minutes for a dog to overheat.”

Last but not least, being aware of the signs of heatstroke could save your pet in case of emergency.

Symptoms of heatstroke in pets include heavy panting, difficulty breathing, drooling, lethargy, vomiting and collapsing.

“If owners do see these signs, they should seek veterinary care immediately,” Dr Webster urges.

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