To shave or not to shave… dogs with a double coat

Arctic breed dogs are bred to flourish in cold weather. These breeds are represented by Siberian Huskies, Malamutes, Chow Chows, Samoyeds, Pomeranians to name but a few. They have a thick double coat. The undercoat consists of short, tightly packed soft fur whilst the outer coat consist of long guard hair. This means that they have a lot of fur and shed a lot, which is an important thing to consider when choosing one of these breeds.

The puppies of these breeds have shorter, soft coats and it consists of only one layer of fur. The baby fur starts falling out from 4-6 months of age and this continues until 12-15 months when the adult coat grows in. This phase is known as the “puppy uglies.”

Adult dogs have a coat that acts as protection against the cold and heat. The outer coat actually insulates them from the heat. They mostly shed fur from the undercoat. That means that these dogs must be brushed and then combed regularly, usually every second or third day to prevent matted hair.

The continued shedding and the regular grooming necessary for these dogs forces busy owners to make the decision to get these dogs shaved. They also think that the dogs will be better off with shorter coats during the summer months. Another reason for shaving these dogs is when the hair is severely matted, which happens when the dogs are not regularly groomed or the dogs are not allowing the owner to groom them. The matted hair can cause bacterial or yeast infections of the skin underneath the matts.

If these dogs need to be shaved, then it is better to only shave the outer coat. If the inner coat is shaved into, the coat may struggle to regrow, especially if the dogs are older. Shaving can alter the texture of the coat for the rest of the dog’s life. At the veterinary clinic we usually shave the hair in the area around a surgical site or if the dog has an underlying skin condition, like eczema. Unfortunately we do need to shave both the upper and under coat of these dogs due to medical reasons.

There are other things you can do rather than shaving to keep these dogs cool during the summer time. These dogs shed their undercoat during summer and you and/or your groomer can use a tool like a rake to remove this hair. Your groomer should have the right equipment to do the job efficiently.

Another thing you can do is to make sure that there is always water available, even when taking these dogs for a walk. Also prevent them from playing outside during very hot days and rather take them for walks during the cooler times, like early mornings or late afternoons.

If you shaved your double coated dog and the hair is not growing back, there might be an underlying medical reason for it. If that is the case it is advisable to take your dog to the veterinarian.

(By Dr Liesl Shaw, TAH Kenridge)

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