You likely wouldn't want to sport a fur coat on a scorching summer day, but your pet's coat actually protects him from heat, which is why veterinarians generally advise against shaving cats and dogs.

Animals’ coats are designed to keep them cool during summer and warm in winter, so shaving off their fur actually interferes with their ability ability to regulate their own body temperatures.

“A dog’s coat is kind of like insulation for your house,” says Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of the ASPCA Animal Hospital. “Insulation stops your home from getting too cold in winter, but it also keeps it from overheating in summer — and your dog’s coat does the same thing.”

Even long-haired felines can keep cool just fine during the dog days of summer because cats are "so much smaller relative to their exposed surface area, they're just better at getting rid of extra body heat," veterinarian Mark J. Stickney told WebMD.

In addition to acting as a cooling system, your pet's coats also protects him from sunburn and skin cancer.

However, even with a healthy fur coat, animals can still get sunburned, especially those with white- or light-colored coats. To protect pets from sunburn, limit outside time during the mornings and afternoons and consider applying pet-specific sunscreen to the animal’s nose, ears and belly.

Occasionally, for medical reasons or for those animals that have been bred for extremely thick coats, a veterinarian may recommend shaving.

If your vet advises you to shave your pet, it’s best to hire a professional groomer to ensure your pet’s safety.

If you decide to shave the animal yourself, be sure to leave at least an inch of fur to protect your dog or cat from sunburn and to keep them warm on cooler summer nights. Also, keep in mind that clipper blades can heat up and potentially burn your pet.

"Take frequent breaks to let those clippers cool down, and use the lubricant that often comes with them,” Stickney advises.

Read on for more information on how to keep your pets healthy and happy during summer months.

Related on MNN: