Single And Double Coats – The Top 10 Reasons Not To Shave Your Double Coated Dog
The Pomsky is a cross between a Pomeranian and Siberian Husky. Having two parent breeds that both have double coats ensures the Pomsky puppy will have a one also. For dog lovers, providing the right type of care is very important. One question that always comes up concerns appropriate grooming. What is right for one fur texture may be completely wrong for another. Owners of double coated dogs must make good decisions about shaving, or not, and this depends on having the best information. Most often, the differences between single and double coats will determine the best practices. Before we go over the top 10 reasons not to shave your double coated dog lets go over the coat types.
The two general categories of dog’s coats are single and double, and these occur across a wide range of different fur textures and breeds. A single coated breed will have only one coat of fur over the entire body, while a double coated breed has a top coat that can be longer and thicker, plus an undercoat that is usually soft and thick.
Examples of Popular Single Coated Breeds
- Wheaten terriers
- Boston Terrier
Generally speaking, these are some breeds which can be shaved, as long as care is taken to leave the coat long enough so that the dog will not become sunburned. No closely shaven dogs should be allowed to be in direct sunlight during the hottest summer months. They will only feel cooler if kept inside or in the shade. Dog breeds with one coat generally have fur that grows back, over time, and still retains its normal appearance.
Examples of Popular Double Coated Breeds
- Shih tzus
- Yorkshire Terriers
- Wire haired fox terriers
- Siberian Husky
Double coated breeds have different grooming needs than single coated ones. Double coats require regular brushing all year long. But when the warmer weather of Spring arrives, they have a rapid period of shedding their thick undercoat. Some breeds with extra heavy undercoats have two shedding periods. The fur will completely detach. This process is called molting, and it is characterized by sections of the soft, shorter undercoat pushing its way through the coarse, longer topcoat. These fur tufts will fall in large amounts, but the dog must be completely brushed out.
When a double coated dog is not properly brushed out, the undercoat will completely matt into a thick, impacted mass of fur. When this happens, the air does not circulate between the skin and topcoat. The key is to remove the undercoat, preserve the proper air circulation, keep the dog cooler and still have the topcoat protecting the dog’s sensitive skin from sunburn.
Unfortunately, shaving a double coated dog allows the undercoat to grow and shed even more, because it removes the protection provided by the top guard coat. Double coated breeds do best when completely brushed, and owners who need advice should contact a professional groomer for help when the heavy molting season begins.
Important Reasons to Avoid Shaving Double Coated Dogs
- The skin under a dog’s coat is sensitive and has hair follicles, just as humans do. Follicles are the sack-like organs where hair is produced. Because they secrete oils, they can become infected. Once this happens, new hair growth can be slowed or even blocked. When it occurs, dogs may develop crusty scales that grow in rings around the opening to each sack. If left infected, the skin can form pustules that crust over or discharge pus.
- Coat funk is a common name for a long list of conditions that can occur when the guard coat is shaved down. Some of these medical conditions include Black Skin Disease, Alopecia X, Sebaceous Adenitis and post-shaving and clipping Alopecia. When the undercoat is exposed, dogs that are affected may developed black spots on their bare skin or the guard coat, followed by the undercoat, can turn brittle, dry and matted or fall out. The severity of these medical conditions require three to four weeks of oral antibiotics, and antibacterial ointments, shampoos and sprays. In some dogs, their coats may not grow back properly regardless of these treatments.
- Dogs need their coats to help keep them warm when it is extremely cold and cool when it is extremely hot. The two layers of fur are designed to provide insulation. When removed, they are more likely to suffer from conditions such as severe sunburns, heat exhaustion or heat strokes.
- Only when the fur is severely matted should double coated dogs be shaved for hot weather. It is better to remove the shedding undercoat with specialized grooming tools. Because the undercoat sheds, or “blows” off so quickly and in such large amounts, seasonal grooming is necessary. It takes vigorous work to remove the undercoat without harming its guard coat. Professionals use a type of rake to remove it, bathe the dog and then blow dry the coat. This process helps to separate the undercoat from the guard coat more easily. Having this done helps dogs stay cooler, while leaving the insulating guard coat layer intact to protect them from harmful UV sunshine.
- Though humans sweat, dogs do not. They need their guard coats in place to insulate them and keep them cooler. The natural space between their outer and under coats allows the air to circulate around them. This functions as their own air conditioner, keeping them from overheating.
- Sunburns are very damaging to dogs, just as they are to humans. The damaged skin is usually very painful, takes very long to heal, and requires burn medication. Avoid this uncomfortable problem by providing shade and not walking dogs when the sun is hottest. Deciding on a summer shave can put dogs at risk for painful sunburns.
- An unusual side effect of summer shaves is dandruff. Even after the dog’s fur coat has grown in again, the white scales of this condition can be persistent.
- Dog’s whose guard coat has been shaved away are at higher risk for mosquito and fly bites. These are itchy and can carry disease.
- Many groomers note that shaved coats often do not grow back uniformly. Some dogs have patches of fur that never return. Others lose either the top or the bottom coat. Some older dogs have matting problems when the undercoat grows in more quickly than the guard coat. Some dogs develop fuzzy or varied length fur in unusual patches all over their bodies. The coat can remain like this, or gradually improve over time.
- The dog’s guard coat is very coarse and it keeps the dog dry in inclement weather. Raindrops roll off the coarse hairs, which keeps the undercoat dry. During the winter, this helps to keep the dog warmer. During the summer, it helps to keep the dog drier during those unexpected summer rain showers.
Each dog lives a different kind of life. Some dogs spend the majority of their time indoors and need extra help acclimating to the hotter outdoor temperatures. These dogs may need a minimal summer haircut. Other dogs live outdoors most of the time. These dogs do well with a rigorous grooming schedule, leaving their coats as nature designed them.
Ideal care is to provide energetic brushing throughout the year, extra professional grooming during the shedding season to allow the dog to retain its natural protection from the weather and bug bites.
When medical needs require surgery or extensive care, then a veterinarian must decide if it is truly necessary to shave a do with a double coat. If dog’s coat has become completely matted, it is painful and sometimes completely impossible to remove it. Then, shaving it is the only step possible.
Specific medical situations that always require shaving:
- Before an ultrasound procedure
- Before surgery
- When dermatitis becomes severe in hot and humid environments
- When pyoderma (infections) are present
- When the fur is so matted it cannot be raked out using normal methods
- When the matting is so severe it has caused chronic skin irritations
- When the matting leads to serious skin infections related to moisture accumulations
Ultimately, daily brushing provides fastidious and appropriate dog grooming for double coats. When the entire coat is thoroughly groomed, dogs will thrive. Dogs who receive this optimal level of care receive the ideal grooming.
Many dogs will need to have shaving to avoid medical problems or to keep them comfortable. The veterinarian is the best support person to help make this decision. Sometimes, making a decision to partially shave a particular area can protect the dog and still address current medical needs.
The most common condition veterinarians mention is when matting has become so severe that no air is circulating underneath the dog’s coats. This is when conditions are most dangerous for the dog. Weeks of antibiotics are often necessary to clear up these problems, and the dogs can suffer greatly during this time. The pain and discomfort is obvious.
It is up to pet owners to brush their dogs regularly. This helps to keep the double coats healthy, shiny, and functioning properly. But when not done on a regular basis, the heavy coats become a problem that doesn’t disappear easily.
Shaving too closely can cause razor burn, just as it does for humans. It is called clipper burn in dogs, but it feels just as uncomfortable. Good, professional groomers know how to avoid this problem, often caused when enthusiastic owners attempt this technique on their own.
Finally, providing plenty of shade and fresh water is the best route for summer days outside. Proper grooming goes hand in hand with these basics. Brush daily if possible, and hire professional groomers when it is not. Keep dogs in the same environment where people are comfortable and help them avoid hot and cold weather misery. Shave a double coated dog only when it is medically or environmentally necessary. Otherwise, allow the dog’s natural warming and cooling system, its double coat, to protect it properly.