Dear Doctor: To Shave, or not to Shave?


Q Our dog, B.B. Mantis, has a fungal problem. His vet said to cut his hair down to his skin to help keep the skin dry. We would like to know what you think because as a Great Pyrenees/old English sheepdog, he has a thick double coat. Cutting down to the skin would not be that simple.

Tammy Wanner

Liberty, North Carolina

Dear Ms. Wanner,

A It is difficult to answer your question without knowing the type of fungal infection your dog has or how far it has spread. For instance, if the fungus is dermatophytosis (ringworm), the hair cutting is usually restricted to the areas of the skin that are infected. And it doesn’t have to be a super-close shave. The clipping is simply to facilitate treatment with a topical medication. The shaving of the entire coat is usually not recommended, except in the case of very generalized lesions — an uncommon scenario.

If the dog has a fungal infection in the form of a yeast overgrowth called Malassezia, clipping or shaving is usually not prescribed at all. That’s because the topical treatment consists not of applying a medication to dry skin but of frequent bathing with a medicated shampoo. Says Tufts veterinary dermatologist Lluis Ferrer, DVM, PhD, DECVD, “the only situation where I would consider clipping much of a dog’s hair to facilitate the treatment of a superficial yeast infection would be if the dog had many hair mats and knots.”

The bottom line: if the infection is just in one or two spots, chances are it’s not necessary to clip the dog all over, and depending on the type of fungus, you might not have to do any clipping at all. Working backwards from the treatment — medicated baths or application of a topical to dry skin — the answer to whether any clipping or shaving is necessary should become clearer. n


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