To shave or not to shave, that is the question!

All our pooches have started participating in #tongueouttuesday pretty much everyday with our Okanagan summer rolling in hot!

To shave or not to shave, that is the question!

With scorching temperatures in the Okanagan, many begin to contemplate just how hot is too hot for your pooch, and whether a good old hair cut might be the best option to help keep them cooler! While it certainly is an effective option for some breeds, for others it may cause more damage than help. Regardless of their breed, regular grooming IS effective in helping them regulate their temperature even if a haircut is not! There are also a ton of other methods to help keep them chilled out this summer.

So how do pups stay cool, and how do you know if your dog is too hot or dehydrated, and what methods are effective in keeping the heat at bay for your good boy or girl? Good question! 

All our pooches have started participating in #tongueouttuesday pretty much everyday with our Okanagan summer rolling in hot! Panting is a dogs most effective method of regulating their temperature, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are uncomfortable. They certainly don’t perspire like us ‘hoomans’, but they do contain sweat glands in both their paws and ear canals and this plays a very minor role in temperature regulation. So while dipping those toe beans in some cool water is a help, the best way they cool themselves is by panting!

To put panting in simple terms, a dog breathes in air through his nose, where it picks up moisture from their wet nose. The moisture then captures the heat generated from the body and it is exhaled through the mouth. This rids the body of the excess heat, thereby, keeping the body at a normal temperature. The faster and more shallow the panting, the more heat the dog is trying to release from his body.

In the reverse, if the dog wishes not to lose body heat, like in cold weather, he breathes in air through his nose and also exhales through his nose to hold the body heat in. Brachiocephalic breeds, (i.e. Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Shih Tzus etc) that have short snouts don’t have as efficient breathing to keep cool and may have more trouble regulating their temperature!

Panting is super effective in keeping your dog cool, but how can you tell if they need a little extra assistance in cooling down? 

While it’s super common to see your dog panting, it is a sign that your dog is hot and is trying to cool off, so it is important to keep an eye on it if you’re worried your dog might be overheating. Making sure your pooch stays hydrated and has access to shade is key in keeping them cool! Panting that is followed by disorientation, weakness, fast, noisy breathing, excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, or changes in gum or tongue colour are all signs that your dog is overheating and you need to take action.

Want to keep an eye on your dog’s hydration levels? There are a few effective ways to check for dehydration!  Sunken eyes, dry mouth, nose, or gums are all signs of dehydration. You can also check your dog’s skin elasticity — aka how long it takes for your dog’s skin to return to its normal position when pulled. You can check by gently pulling up on the skin on the back of your pup’s neck (just like their doggie mama would have done!); the longer it takes for the skin to get into its original position, the more dehydrated your dog is!

So now that you know how dogs cool themselves, and the key signs to take note of overheating and dehydration, it begs the question will a hair cut help them out? 

Regular grooming of your dog is definitely needed for your dogs body and coat to operate at optimal level. Ideally your dog, no matter what their coat type, should be bathed monthly for their skin and coat to feel their best. Regular brushing is also an essential component! Bathing removes dirt and debris from the skin and coat, while brushing helps their natural body oils to be distributed evenly, increases blood flow to the skin, keeps them tangle free, and helps to remove excess coat that’s ready to shed! Less coat = more effective cooling, however that doesn’t necessarily mean a shorter coat.

The first and most important step to determining if a haircut is right for your dog is discovering if your dog has a single or double coat. Double coated breeds are not candidates for a shave down, and believe it or not that long hair is nature’s protectant and built in cooling system! The “no shave” rule applies not only to super-furry northern breeds like Samoyeds, Huskies or Malamutes but to all other ‘double-coated’ breeds as well. Herding breeds like Aussie Shepherds, Border Collies, and Shelties are double-coated. So are Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Bernese Mountain Dogs and many more.

Some breeds that ARE great candidates for shorter dos over the summer are Doodles, Poodles, Soft Coated Wheaten terriers, Yorkshire terriers, Maltese, Portuguese Water Dogs, and Bedlington terriers! If you are unsure, or own a mixed breed, most groomers will be happy to give an in person consult to determine the most effect grooming for their coat type.

Curious how a long fluffy coat could possibly be a natural cooling system, well let us tell you!

Double-coated breeds have two layers to protect against harsh weather. The long guard hairs form the outer long layer and protect against snow or ice, sunburn, and even shed water. The soft undercoat lies close to the skin and keeps your dog warm and dry in the winter. It can be so thick you may have trouble finding your dog’s skin, so it’s super important to keep it tangle free for nature to do it’s work!

Conversely, in summer, your dog should shed his soft undercoat, leaving just the guard hairs.   Your pup may need manual help to shed out all that winter floof, hence why regular bathing and brushing are so important! The job of the guard hairs in warm weather is to protect your dog from sunburn and insulate him against the heat. Without the undercoat, air can circulate through the guard hairs, cooling the skin. Unlike single coated breeds, who have hair that just keeps growing, double coats grow to a certain length and don’t get any longer. So while you can shave a single-coated breed down and the coat will grow back again without really changing it, the same is not true for double coats.

Shaving a double-coated breed can really ruin the coat and you run the risk of it growing back damaged or potentially not growing back at all! Yikes! Some exceptions to this ‘no shave’ rule would be if the double coat has become extremely matted, or if a skin condition makes regular brushing too uncomfy! Your dogs comfort is number one priority! It’s important to remember for all breeds, a short hair cut can expose more of their skin to the elements and they might need protection to be their best selves!

For all breeds, keeping cool this summer is on everyone’s mind. Even if a haircut is off the table for your pooch, there are many other methods you can introduce to help your furry friend fend off the heat. Some of our favorite methods for keeping fresh this time of year are using cooling mats, laying a damp towel for them to lay on, putting on cooling wear (such as damp bandanas or tee shirts), using a pup friendly swimming pool, playing in the sprinkler, having a pupsicle, water logging and freezing some of their favorite toys, filling a hot water bottle with cold water to lay with, and encouraging chill out time in the shade!

However you choose to keep cool this summer, always remember to keep you and your pup hydrated and have a ton of fun!

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