'Don't do it': Why shaving your dog's fur could be deadly

Melissa Buttigieg
News Reporter

A Facebook warning has divided Australian dog owners on social media, with many believing shaving their pet’s coat helps them cool down in the heat, while others say it can actually be deadly.

Michelle Bryant, who has bred border collies for 25 years, shared a thermal image of a dog with a lion’s shave to her Rowesdale Border Collies Facebook page late last month.

The thermal image, which Ms Bryant came across elsewhere on social media, appears to show the dog’s temperature as 30.8C – which was almost 7 degrees warmer than the area with a coat intact at 24C.

“The hair is present for several reasons, mainly thermal regulation,” the post she re-shared stated.

The original post also went on to say dogs with dual coats – like Australian shepherds, labradors, golden retrievers and huskies – should not be shaved as it puts them at risk of sunburn and overheating.

However, a vet who came across the post, believed the image could be misrepresented.

“The thermal is reading the surface temperature. So the surface of the skin and the tips of the hair not the temp of the animal underneath,” he wrote.

The vet explained the shaved area could however simply appear hotter because it shows more heat escaping from the dog’s body.

Dog shave warning stirs up heated debate

The post generated strong debate from both sides of the argument, with some owners saying they noticed a positive change in their pet’s behaviour after being clipped.

“He’s so much happier and energetic once done,” one border collie owner wrote.

“I shave my dog's coat in summer – better for swimming,” another added.

Queensland breeder Michelle Bryant, of Rowesdale Border Collies, pictured with dogs. Source: Michelle Bryant

Owner of skin cancer dog warns: ‘Don’t do it’

Sandra Coates revealed her beloved scotch collie cross red cattle dog, Lady, died of skin cancer after she was clipped each summer.

“She was a big ball of fluff - she was gorgeous,” she described of Lady, who died at 13 years of age, in 2002.

After moving from NSW to the warmer climate of Mackay, in North Queensland, Ms Coates thought clipping Lady was best to help her cope with the heat.

“She had more energy, but we didn’t realise the consequences... She really suffered towards the end,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

“At the time we thought we were doing the right thing but it was too late.

“Don’t do it - it’s not good for them.”

Another man described a friend’s dog who went into shock after being clipped.

“The dog did survive but it is not a good thing to do to a double-coated dog,” he wrote on the Facebook thread.

Many dog owners believe the animal's coat helps regulate their temperature in summer and protects them from the sun. Source: Michelle Bryant

Ms Bryant confirmed to Yahoo News Australia there was a real divide among pet owners on whether shaving a dog’s coat was beneficial or harmful to the animal.

She said the issue of shaving a border collie’s coat had been a “touchy subject” among pet owners for years with much conflict regarding both behavioural changes and health risks, including skin cancer.

“There’s always going to be conflicts on do’s and don’ts,” said the Gold Coast Hinterland dog breeder, who is respected in the industry.

“I’ve only had negative in my experience, but I know of others who say their dogs respond better to having shaved coats.”

Ms Bryant told Yahoo News Australia of two cases where vets shaved her border collies without her permission, which caused in a change in the dogs’ behaviours.

Some dog owners believe shaving their pet's coat can cause serious harm to the animal, and it's best to leave it alone. Source: Rowesdale Border Collies

“It caused serious issues mentally. They hid in a corner and didn’t cope at all – not just for a few days, but for months.

“One had to be put on medication, it was stressed so badly because of its coat being shaved.”

Rather than shaving her dogs’ coats in summer, Ms Bryant said she uses a grooming tool called a king comb.

This thins out the animal’s fur without the need to shave it, allowing the dog’s coat to dry quicker after taking a swim, preventing fungal issues like hot spots. So thinning of the coat, as opposed to shaving, can help prevent this problem, she said.

It also retains the animal’s protective coat, shielding the dog from the sun.

“If you’re taking them out to the beach in 30-degree heat, [the coat] keeps the animal protected by the sun. If there is no coat, they’re going to get burned. It grows there naturally for a reason,” the dog breeder added.

While Ms Bryant said she would never shave her dog’s coat, she advised others to adhere to “sensible pet ownership” and do their best for their dogs.

She also advised to keep pets out of the elements in summer and winter.

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