Should you Trim your Dog’s Hair?

I often find myself walking around and observing dogs of various races to which a full beard and hair service has been done.

For a few years to this part, animal saloons are becoming quite common especially in big cities, and they are set-up as real beauty centers for our four-legged friends.

Generally, grooming centers offer different services such as nail clipping, eye and ears cleanliness, pesticide baths, but the most popular and most sought-after customer care concerns hair care and haircut, which, according to industry experts , serves to enhance the forms of the dog for purely aesthetic purposes. In fact they use clippers, ideally those made on purpose for dogs, and not like a guy I know who found the best clippers for fades to use on himself and then proceeded to tackle his dog’s fur with it!! Yes that happened.

Now for the purpose of simplicity I am using hair and fur interchangeably in this post, however there is a difference between the two and you can read more about this here.

Also among the various schools of thought there are also professionals or ‘experts’, including veterinarians, instructors and dog enthusiasts who state that a dog haircut is a necessary practice in order to keep the animal more cool in the summer. Unfortunately, these indications are scientifically unfounded and perhaps many do not know how the physiology of the dog’s thermoregulation works.

It is perfectly understandable that some dog owners, in the stifling heat of the summer, look at their husky Husky or Shepherd and think “I’m so hot so, I cannot imagine myself going around with a coat of fur, I really think I would die. But that’s not the way the dog’s body works, so learning how a dog’s physiology works, scientifically can help frame this “burning” topic in a different light.

Dogs fall under the animal species that are referred to as hot blooded animals, because they maintain their body temperature constant even with extremely different outdoor temperatures. Snakes and lizards, on the other hand, adapt their body temperature to the external climate and are called cold blooded animals.

In people, the temperature remains approximately 36.6 ° C, although with small variations during the day, regardless of whether the climatic temperature is extremely hot or cold. The brain regulates the body’s temperature through different sensors that are critical for temperature regulation. In humans, the most important control system is sweat, because per gram of sweat vapor dissipates about half a heat calorie.

This mechanism is much less important in dogs because, although they have sweat glands placed predominantly on their fingertips and ears, the main thermal regulation mechanism is to inhale air with the nose and expel it from the breath of the mouth. Cutting the fur does not therefore encourage sweating in any way (which dogs do not have) but eliminates a valuable temperature preservation tool.

The dog’s mantle protects against cold and heat, preventing body heat loss, with a degree of thermal insulation that increases with thickness.

The dog’s coat consists of two types of cover: the longest and toughest hair and the undercoat (soft, woolly, and much shorter than the outer cover). This undercoat has the function of retaining heat while the hair on the outer part of the dog shields the dog’s body, protecting it from the rays of the sun and thus from burns and partly from the parasites.

Some types of hair in addition to having a heat-insulating function, are also waterproof and protect the dog from dirt; in general the hair is like the well-made insulation of a home.

But how does heat dissipate in dogs? Anyone who has a dog knows that dogs pant when they are hot, this mechanism allows the dog to lose heat. The mechanism works on the evaporation principle, which is extremely effective because it can lose more or less 540 times the heat that would be lost by changing the air temperature.

The air enters the dog’s nose and finds a complex and highly flushed fabric, so it absorbs heat and moisture. After losing oxygen to the lungs, air is expelled in two different ways depending on whether the dog needs to lose heat or not:

If the dog does not lose heat out in the air directly from the nose, the air in the initial path cuts the heat back to the body and overall heat loss is minimal so that the body temperature remains constant.

Heat dissipation is also related to the length of the nasal canal.

If instead the dog is hot it ejects the air from his mouth by panting. Relieving heat through rapid surface respiration that causes the fluid to evaporate on the tongue.

When the air is ejected through the mouth, the heat leaves the dog’s body so that it can lower its temperature. So the more the animal is heated, the more it opens its mouth and pulls out its tongue.

This mechanism does not interfere with the other vital functions, as it allows the animal to breathe a constant volume of air.

It should be pointed out, however, that the dog’s hair protects it from excessive heating of the body, until the temperature reaches a too high a level.

In this case, the dog will try to dissipate the heat through other mechanisms because the natural mechanisms such as panting is no longer sufficient. So it has to adopt “artificial” behaviors such as lying on a cold surface or going for a swim, where possible. This is a simple “conduction” mechanism that helps to get rid of excess heat.

So, if you think that in summer your dog feels too hot and that magically tossing his fur will make them cooler, then please note … it’s absolutely false!

Trimmin is actually a practice that should be avoided unless it is necessary, for reasons such as, for surgical reasons or otherwise related to the health of the animal, because doing so takes away its natural protection by exposing it to sunlight, which in turn can cause possible sunburn, dermatitis and skin cancers!

The dog’s fur, rather than trimmed or shaved has to be cared for because of its importance. Dogs normally lose hair twice a year, in spring and autumn. Hair loss in springtime is needed to get rid of winter hair that is unnecessary for the summer, while the one in the fall serves to prepare for the regrowth of the thicker cloak for the cold season.

Trimming is therefore completely useless for most dogs, with rare exceptions.

One note of caution before I conclude. Even though dogs can regulate their body temperature naturally to adjust for the outside heat or cold, this does not mean that they should stay too long in the sun especially in summer when the temperatures are too high.

Although some dogs have a more efficient thermo-regulation than others, when outdoors they are too hot, they will still not be able to lower their body temperature.

In order to limit the stress on your dog and avoid health problems, such as heat shocks, it would be extremely important to take some simple steps like: keep your dog in a cool place, never leave them in the car (not even in a shaded car) during the summer and hot days, and take them for their walks in the early or late evening.