By Rose Stremlau
Summer grooming is essential, especially for active Pyrs. When polled in summer 2009, many of CGPR’s Pyrents suggested that increased brushing was their primary means to keep Pyrs comfortable during warm months. Ronda Katzman, who has three working Pyrs, uses a brush and a light touch to remove the undercoat. Pyrs have two coats: a coarse, long outer coat and a fine, wooly undercoat. The outer coat is called the guard coat because it literally defends against threats to the health of the dog. As Judy Tysmans explained it, “My Pyr is a sheep guardian, so is out all the time. She doesn’t need last winter’s ‘overcoat’! She does need the guard hairs, so I wouldn’t shave her. They shade her from sun and tend to keep flies and ticks off.”
The coat also serves as a thermal barrier by regulating and maintaining a consistent body temperature because fur keeps the skin moist and therefore cooler. Exposed, dry skin can’t do the job nature intended it to do for the dog.
White dogs, such as Pyrs, are particularly susceptible to skin cancer. Pink skin is a sign of delicacy due to the lack of protective pigmentation. For this reason, most vets and breed experts recommend against shaving light-colored dogs. A slight trim that maintains the integrity of the coat may be appropriate for some dogs. If a dog must be shaved for medical reasons, baby sunscreen should be applied before exposure to the sun. Skin cancer is the most common canine cancer, and 30% of skin cancer tumors in dogs are malignant although not all skin cancers are related to sun exposure. Breed experts do recommend trimming the fur around the feet, however, as dogs do have sweat glands in their pads.
Watch for signs of heat stroke which occurs when dogs can no longer regulate their body heat. Symptoms include rapid panting, muddy-pink gums, heart racing, panicky behavior, and staggering. Submerge the dog in cool (not cold) water or run cool water over the dog’s groin where there is a concentration of superficial blood vessels. As soon as it is safe to move the dog, get it to the vet. Heat stroke can kill.