TO SHAVE OR NOT TO SHAVE….. THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF SPRING GROOMING.
Spring is one of the busiest times of the year at Twisted Whiskers Pet Spas. The warmer weather sees all our furry clients emerging from under winter jerseys and blankets, often transformed into small Woolly Mammoths. Regular grooming is as important throughout the winter months as it is in summer, but is often neglected because clients worry about their animals getting cold while being washed. This is never a cause for concern in our air-conditioned, cosy parlours at Twisted Whiskers.
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH SHAVING?
While shaving short is certainly one way to manage an overgrown winter coat, this option should be carefully discussed with your grooming team. Dogs with certain coat-types should never be shaved if it’s at all possible to avoid it, as cutting into the thick undercoat can cause irreparable damage and leave your pooch with a sparse, lack-lustre coat. While some pet-parents choose to shave after all, for ease of maintenance, or because they insist their pet is hot and uncomfortable in his long coat, we always aim to educate our clients on the possible results of shaving down for summer. Pekingese, Pomeranians, Chow Chows, Huskies and other double-coated breeds like Shepherds, Collies and Retrievers should be left natural, with minimal scissor trimming done to tidy the overall appearance, while the coat is brushed free of all dead undercoat.
DOES SHAVING REALLY HELP TO KEEP THE PET COOL?
Absolutely not! While it may seem contrary to logic, longer-coated pets have a built in cooling system between the skin and the hair to help them cope with hot summer weather. Shaving the hair short exposes the skin to the sun’s harsh rays and, according to studies, the skin temperature in shaved areas is actually higher than that which is protected by the coat. Dogs also lose body heat primarily through panting, not through their skin.
The best thing to do for pets with longer coats is to ensure that they are thoroughly brushed out to remove excess hair, either professionally or by regularly using the correct tools at home, and to provide them with “chill out points” in the garden. Set up a shallow kiddies’ paddle pool (plastic shell-types are marvellous for this) or buckets of cool water in a shady spot in your yard. You’ll notice that your shaggy-coated kids will regularly dip their paws into the water to cool the pulse points just above their paws. This immediately helps to cool the entire body down. They might also enjoy lazing on the top step of the swimming pool on hot days.
Many people offer their pets large blocks of ice to lick throughout the day. The cool thing about this idea is that toys or treats can be frozen into the blocks – this not only helps your furkid to reduce his temperature, but provides hours of fun and interest as he strives to get at the goodies. Freeze pet-friendly fruits like berries or chopped banana, or a favourite toy, in an ice-cream container full of water for the coolest ever doggy treat! Cats can be offered smaller ice-blocks to chase along the veranda as they melt, cooling their paws. Or place ice-blocks into a large water bowl for a fun “fishing expedition”.
Shaving an “aircon strip” on the tummy can be beneficial and many parents of dogs and cats with longer coats do this for their furballs in summer. A nude tummy doesn’t affect the overall look of the pet, won’t damage his coat, is not exposed to the sun and is ideal for cooling off as he stretches out on floor tiles, or a pet cooling-mat.
WHEN IS IT UNAVOIDABLE TO SHAVE THE COAT?
Sadly, if a long, gorgeous coat has been allowed to become matted, there may be no option but to shave the pet down, even if he has a double coat. Mats that have turned into felt and lie close against the skin have to be shaved out. We see many pets each year where winter jerseys have caused months of friction and matting, or where clients have just not been able to keep up with the daily brushing that a long, thick coat requires.
Old hairs, that naturally fall out each day, get trapped amongst the healthy hairs and form a nasty clump that gets thicker and tighter until it literally forms a “straightjacket” on the pet’s skin, tearing healthy hair out at the roots, causing bruising and limiting movement. This is incredibly itchy and painful for the pet, and further damage is often caused either by twigs, thorns and parasites getting trapped under the matted hair. Wounds are often caused when the pet scratches desperately to try and ease the discomfort. The underlying skin becomes dry and unhealthy and the pet cannot experience the sensation of being stroked and loved.
There is no way to save a coat in this condition and we have no choice but to shave the animal right down to the skin and allow the coat to regrow. By recommending the necessary grooming tools and demonstrating the correct way to brush, our hope is that pet parents will find it much easier to maintain a regular home grooming routine. Even pets who are professionally groomed require home maintenance in between – in the case of longer coated dogs and cats, this needs to be done daily to avoid matting. If your dog is a keen swimmer or lies on dewy grass, daily brushing is of utmost importance, as wet knots and tangles tighten when they dry, making them more difficult to remove.
SO WHAT ARE THE GROOMING OPTIONS?
Most pet breeds have a standard breed style, based on the purpose the pet was originally bred for, and to highlight his best features. A perfect example is the French Poodle, first bred as a water hunting dog. While most people find the pouffy pom-poms a little odd, they make perfect sense when one understands that the hair was specifically left longer around the joints to protect these areas in cold weather. The channels clipped in between the thicker areas of fur were to allow water to drain off easily as the dog emerged from his dip. Many other breed styles follow the muscle anatomy in order to accentuate powerful shoulders and haunches, a strong neck and so forth. The styling on the face emphasises your dog’s innate personality traits: alertness, intelligence, courage, etc.
When it comes to cats, it is imperative to brush thick coated, long-haired breeds daily to prevent matting. For many cat-parents, this is impossible (due to time constraints or some cats’ aversion to being brushed), and they opt to shave their kitty shorter for ease of grooming, or have her groomed monthly. Many older cats also struggle to groom themselves as they develop arthritis and can no longer reach their “nether regions”; shaving is also a good idea for these animals. The typical styles for cats are a full body shave, leaving only the head fluffy (legs and tail optional), or the lion cut, which leaves a fluffy face and a mane covering either just the neck or the shoulders as well, fluffy booties on the legs and a pom-pom at the end of the tail (or a full, fluffy tail, if preferred). The rest of the body is shaved short.
Twisted Whiskers staff are fully trained to offer advice on the style which will best suit both your and your pet’s lifestyles. The long breed style may not work for a Yorkie who enjoys the “rough-and-tumble” of outdoor life on a plot, for example; either a cute teddy cut or short breed cut would be more practical in this case. Have a look at the basic breed style and discuss variations with your groomer to ensure that your pet is comfortable and that you are easily able to fit the home maintenance requirements into your schedule. Alternatively, why not book regular grooming appointments at Twisted Whiskers to ensure that your dog or cat always looks amazing and that you don’t find yourself with a smelly, tangled, unhappy mess on your hands, instead of a fresh, adorable furball.
Whether or not you opt for regular professional grooming appointments for your dog or cat, always include home grooming too. Brushing your pet only when his coat is tangled makes for an unpleasant experience and will result in him heading for the hills whenever he sees the brush come out. Regular brushing helps maintain the salon look and pristine coat condition and it’s an ideal opportunity to pick up any bumps, scratches or abnormalities that might need veterinary attention. Most importantly, it provides special bonding time between you and each individual pet. You will benefit as much as your furkids do.
Written by Twisted Whiskers