Most pet owners who own heavy double-coated breeds, like the Golden Retriever, are concerned that their dogs are very hot during the summer months. Some clients do not understand the function of the double-coat. It is our job as pet care professionals to educate our clients before shaving a double-coated breed.
The undercoat serves as a type of insulation for dogs. It keeps them warm during the winter months by holding in body heat. They don't shed quite as much in the winter because they need the coat to keep them warm. As for Florida our winters are very unpredictable and can be on the warm side or hot cold hot cold, dogs in Florida need to be de-shedded on a regular schedule year around. When the warmer season approaches and the days become longer, these breeds will start to shed profusely. They are shedding their winter coat preparing for the summer heat. If they held onto their coat, they would be extremely hot during the summer months. Many of these breeds need assistance from groomers to remove the excess undercoat during the shedding season, in Florida that season is year round. Once the undercoat is removed and is maintained regularly, the dog will stay cooler. The pretty guard hair that these breeds have regulates their body temperature, keeping them cool and protecting their skin from the sun.
The double-coat serves to protect the dogs from weather conditions, cold water temperatures and rough terrain when performing the various jobs that they were bred for. Many of these coats have an oily protective coating that acts like the down of a duck and repels water. The undercoat insulates and prevents the water from reaching the skin. This is very important for water retrieving dogs. Of course, when these breeds are bathed with shampoo, the detergent will gradually break down the natural oils and the coat will become saturated. This is why it seems difficult to completely saturate these breeds when bathing them.
When these breeds are shaved, their natural cooling mechanism is destroyed. They do not have protection from the sun's harmful UV rays or the guard hair that serves to control their body temperature. Once shaved, the undercoat that was in the hair follicle still remains there. When the coat is clipped very short, the follicles can become clogged with undercoat. The dogs may lick the irritated skin and before long a hot spot or skin irritation can be triggered.
Dogs have numerous strands of hair in each follicle. It is believed that the follicle consists of only one guard hair and a multitude of undercoat hairs. When clippering a dog short, many of the guard hairs can be damaged and will be replaced with undercoat. In addition, undercoat grows at a much more rapid rate than guard hair. This is why after clippering these breeds it seems as though the coat grows back thicker with more undercoat.
Canine alopecia is a hair loss disorder that results from mange, infection, trauma, immune disease and endocrine system abnormalities as well as other underlying health conditions. Once double-coated breeds are shaved, "post-clippering alopecia" can be triggered. This disorder is most prevalent in the Pomeranian, Chow Chow, German Shepherd, Samoyed, Sheltie, Australian shepherds, Husky, Collie and Keeshond although it can happen in any heavy double-coated breed. This is often seen several weeks after the pet has been shaved as new growth is starting to appear. The coat will grow in leaving patchy areas of baldness. Canine alopecia has been linked to certain health issues including trauma to the skin, yet it is uncertain why some breeds that are shaved develop post-clippering alopecia and others do not. The dogs that do develop this disorder after being shaved may never grow their full coat back again.
- Education from Jodi Murphy (National Certified Master Groomer) edited by Erica owner/groomer at The Waggin’ Wheel for education in Florida.