Shaving a dog’s thick coat in the summer can cause heatstroke.
That’s right: It seems like walking around in a thick, fur coat would cause overheating, but in fact, dogs’ coats regulate their body temperature perfectly.
Despite rumors to the contrary, hair and fur are the same thing. The terms differ only in their use. Most people call what humans have “hair” and what animals have “fur.” Otherwise, they’re the same. And the function of your dog’s fur is similar to the function of the hair that covers us, just on a different scale.
Fur protects your dog’s skin from assault—from the sun, bacteria, and so on—and helps your dog regulate her body temperature. Fur also keeps good things from escaping off your dog’s skin, like natural oils. But, of course, that mechanism also allows for dead skin and mats to build up (without proper grooming).
So, how does a dog’s coat work?
You might be surprised to learn that a dog’s fur coat actually helps keep her cool in scorching temps and warm on frigid days. An expert interview on the ASPCA website explained why: “’A dog’s coat is kind of like insulation for your house,’ explains Dr. Louise Murray, Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Hospital. ‘Insulation stops your home from getting too cold in winter, but it also keeps it from overheating in summer—and your dog’s coat does the same thing.’”
That layer of insulation either raises off the skin in warm weather or lowers toward the skin to trap in heat in the winter.
In other words, dogs’ coats are perfectly designed to regulate their own body temperature! (Though if you love a hairless breed, definitely invest in sunscreen and winter apparel!)
Maggie Marton is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis. When not hiking with her two pit mixes, Emmett and Cooper, or playing with Newt the Cat, Maggie writes about them (and the pet industry) at ohmydogblog.com and maggiemarton.com.
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