Double Coat Dog Clipping - should it be done?
Double coat dogs - dogs with an undercoat that is shed, and changed in season cycles. Breeds such as Border Collie, Labrador, Husky, Retrievers, Some Spaniels, Beagles, Jack Russell, Shepherds, Pomeranians and many more...
Let me start off by being perfectly clear: Shaving/clipping is almost never a good idea.
So ... when is it acceptable - what is the grey area, I hear you ask?
- If the coat is so severely matted that brushing, de-matting, just isn't an option. This is usually in line with severe neglect and probably reflects animal cruelty.
- The canine is about to undergo surgery, and site preparation dictates it. Often in this category, some veterinarians clinics may also do some form of shaving whilst undergoing thorough examination for parasites. Keep in mind, that this should not be done as an excuse to make finding parasites easier (preventative measure), but rather it be in-hand with part of the remedy to finding why the pet may be exhibiting the symptoms of some sort of parasite.
If the coat is clipped, there are several things that are being forcibly changed.
The undercoat is being cut from the dog, this is the part of the coat that is not seen unless you part the hair. This hair tends to recover after a clip as it is designed to be shed out and replaced in cycles. This hair plays an important part though in temperature regulation [The undercoat traps a thin layer of circulating air around the body which can act as insulation from the heat and cold (hence its density and length vary with season). Air is a fantastic insulator - which is why double glazing works on windows], and the undercoat also controls wind/water ingress to the skin. When it is decreased in size, or removed, the body can be more exposed to the environmental elements and external temperatures. This can cause the overall body to heat up by heating the skin more. Dogs have very few sweat glands, and cool by panting. If the panting cannot remove the heat that is being absorbed through the body, it can lead to heat stroke (see my earlier blog on Aussie Summers).
The topcoat is the coarser, coloured, sturdy top layer that we see. This coat is significantly damaged each time it is cut. This will get to the point where it may not be the same - it may not grow back properly - if at all. There are only so many times you will get away with clipping it that reasonable recovery occurs. The growth speed of the undercoat and topcoat vary, so during the regrowth time, you will have a myriad of issues to contend with such as matting, exposure to heat, sunburn, and more. But the main scare is that the coat will be patchy and in sections, may not grow back.
In the following image;
1. This is the ideal coat. Top coat is working to help reflect sun rays, fresh air is passing around the skin, and internal heat is finding escape paths through the de-shedded, brushed coat.
2. This is a coat not brushed or de-shed. Air is not circulating around the skin and internal heat is being trapped. Sun rays are adding to the heat problem. This is considerably worse in condition if the top coat is also matted.
3. This is after a double coat clipping. Sun rays are beating down on the skin, being absorbed into the body. There is no circulating air. Some heat is trying to escape within the body, but depending on internal vs external temps, this is not an ideal situation. Furthermore, the regrowth will be fraught with mats and patches.
The ideal solution is to thin out and brush out the undercoat in the warmer months - when it is shed and replaced by the dog's natural cycle. This will allow the air moving around the dog under the topcoat to be an effective insulator and no mats will develop.
Don't shave the coat - at all. Keep up to date with regular brushing and de-shedding.
To do this sort of grooming yourself, you need a comb, a slicker brush, and a de-shedding tool. These are, of course, available at The Pet House. And our staff will take you through step by step in how to use them correctly.
The Pet Whisperer.