A professional groomer can see a variety of problems with their canine clients’ skin and coats, from hot spots to ear infections, but the most common issue encountered is the matted coat. Your dog’s skin suffers when its coat is tangled with matted hair. Consider combing snarls out of human hair with sharp tugs. Now imagine that sensation all over your body, including such sensitive spots as armpits and groin. Bluntly put, mats are painful and need to be remedied. But what are they, how do they form, and how do you deal with matted dog hair?
What Are Mats in a Dog’s Coat?
Just like human hair can get tangled and knotted, dog hair can become densely intertwined in masses of snarls. This happens in areas of friction, where fur that is old and loose is not fully combed or brushed out, or simply areas where there is movement. An active dog that has access to brush and burrs might also have these and other pieces of outdoor debris wound up in the tangles as well.
How do Mats Form in Your Dog’s Coat?
An individual tangle here and there is no great matter for you to handle with a comb or the right type of brush for your dog’s fur type. When tangles begin twisting together, they grow wrapped around each other and foreign objects in the fur to form a dense, tight layer of the dreaded mats close against your dog’s skin. The matted hair starts with fur tangling and wrapping about itself. It forms clumps of loose dead fur that are tightly wound with the live fur. When these are not combed or brushed out, more and more fur becomes trapped. And as this process continues, the mat pulls in closer to the skin.
Common Causes of Matted Dog Hair
Matted dog hair is often caused by friction; rolling, being petted, and playing can lead to the formation of these tangled patches. Moisture can also cause or complicate mats. As the moisture from rain, snow, puddles, or bathing dries, it draws the knots in the mats still tighter. Mats generally begin with a simple small knot. Left untreated, this can rapidly grow into a sizeable clump. These clumps can become unmanageable over a surprisingly short amount of time under the right conditions.
Where Hair Mats Form
Your dog can develop matting anywhere there is fur, but matted dog hair tends to form particularly where your canine’s hair is longer. This includes the areas under the legs, the armpits, where the collar rubs, the belly area, their backsides, and the back part of your dog’s ears. Because mats can develop invisibly, with the top part of the fur seemingly normal, a large swath of your dog’s body may become entangled in the impenetrable layer of tangled hairs.
Treating Mats in Dog Hair: Two Options
Dogs suffer when their fur is matted. Bruises, hematomas, and bacterial infections are possible in addition to the general pain of having one’s hair constantly tugged upon. Gently brush instead of trying to brusquely brush mats out can tear the follicles from the skin, causing still more hurt to the pup. There are two main solutions to treating mats that are not severe. The first is brushing them out, and the second is giving the area a close trim to remove matted dog hair.
De-matting: Brush Them Out
De-matting matted dog hair can be an excruciating process for both you and your dog. With extensive mats in problematic fur, this procedure can be extremely time-consuming. You should only consider this option if the mats in your dog’s fur are not severe. Be patient, working on a small area at a time, considering every square inch of untangled hair a victory. Lavish positive words and small treats on your dog for behaving well as you work. Take breaks when the stress grows unbearable for either you or your companion.
Try using an oil-based spray that will help detangle matted hair as you begin working the mat apart using your fingers. Take a firm hold on the mat’s base so that tugs do not pull on the skin underneath, causing pain. Once you have gained some wiggle room, gently make use of a metal comb or a brush. Continue to hold the hairs next to the skin, beneath the matting. With exquisite care, separate your dog’s tangles into smaller segments. Then use short strokes with a comb, finishing up with a slicker brush. This minimizes painful pulling on the skin.
The Secret Ingredient: Cornstarch
The first fact to note is that this ingredient is for small mat detangling. Large or severe mats should be entrusted to professionals. But for a small mat that is not too close to the skin, cornstarch is invaluable. Pick a spot where your pup is comfortable, inside or out, and consider offering a distraction. A hollow toy filled with peanut butter is a great option. Sprinkle the cornstarch onto the mat liberally. Again, hold the mat at its base, using your fingers to start the loosening process. The cornstarch will help as you begin to comb, allowing the teeth to glide through the matted dog hair.
Get Your Dog a Short Trim
When you bring your dog to a groomer to deal with an extensive or problematic patch of matting, they will perform a short haircut—groomers expertly know how to trim dog hair that’s matted using clippers. The clippers cut close against the skin underneath the knots and tangles. The question of how short the fur will be cut depends upon how dense the matting has become and its degree of closeness to your dog’s skin. Groomers tend to have a slogan that equates to humanity before vanity. This means you may have a somewhat goofy-looking pup at the end of the procedure, but fur will grow back and your dog will feel immense relief. In the end, remove matted dog hair in the way most comfortable for your dog.
Avoid Scissors on Your Dog’s Mats
You may be tempted to pull out a pair of scissors to help the process along. Never try this. It is far too easy to catch your dog’s skin between the scissor’s blades. This results in unfortunate and nasty lacerations. Clippers can safely be used to circumvent a long process of manual de-matting—scissors cannot.
Serious Mat Treatment
For seriously matted dog hair, consider not just your local groomer but possibly your veterinarian. If the coat has been left to its own devices for too long, a veterinarian can make sure there are no infections or skin conditions lurking beneath the matting. Even mild hair mats can lead to irritation of the skin that may progress to infections in lesions . A wound thus hidden and left untreated can accumulate maggots.
Grooming to Avoid Matted Dog Hair
As a dog owner, you should educate yourself on the grooming needs of your dog. This varies based on your dog’s breed and hair type. Medium to long haired dogs may require brushing as frequently as once a day. Poodle grooming for example can be a very intricate job because of the breed’s thick, curly hair. Talk to your veterinarian or groomer about which brush or comb you should use on your dog’s fur. Brushing your dog regularly and thoroughly removes hairs that are dead and loose. This is especially important in shedding season. Brushing has the bonus effect of aerating the skin and fur. Keeping your dog’s fur at a more manageable length will also prevent matted hair as well as stop dogs from shedding excessively.
Train As You Go
Start your puppy or dog as soon as you can in training to accommodate grooming needs without struggle or fuss. Use loving reinforcing words and high-value treats. Let your dog explore your tools, showing the pup each implement you plan to use. For clippers, work gradually up to turn them on, letting your dog grow accustomed to the noise so you do not startle your companion with the sound and vibration all at once.
Pay Attention from Paws to Tail
Mats can develop anywhere in your dog’s hair. Even the fur between the toes can develop tiny nuisance knots. If your dog has a graceful plume of a tail, that long hair is also suspect when it comes to the chance of matting. Besides being on the lookout for formats, when you give your dog careful grooming and go over your companion from end to end, you will be on top of any irregularities that arise. A prompt reaction is a key to successful treatments in many canine health conditions.
Consider Clippers for Posteriors and Paws
Even if you do not plan to use clippers on your dog’s matted coat, you can use them preventatively. Consider some dog clippers to keep your dog’s paws trim and its backside neat and tidy. Between sitting on various substances and the risk of feces getting caught in long hair there, a dog’s posterior can quickly become messy. A quick buzz around the anus may be uncomfortable for you and your dog, but cleanliness there is worth a bit of embarrassment. Touch-ups on the paws between dog grooming sessions are also valuable to avoid tangles in those small areas.
Breeds that are Prone to Matting
Any dog with a coat that is longer, or of a breed that possesses a double coat, can have matting. However, some breeds just have a larger problem with these tangles of fur than others. Poodles and those dog breeds that combine a Poodle parent with such other breeds as Golden Retrievers mat easily unless they receive continued maintenance. The Bichon Frise is another curly-coated breed that proves problematic as regards matting. Long-coated breeds such as Collies of the Bearded and Rough Coat varieties are further examples.
Note that some breeds are meant to have corded coats. The coat of such a dog is hand-groomed to form cords or dreadlocks. These can look similar to matting, but they are meticulously maintained, receiving regular trims and avoiding skin issues. Such breeds, also known as mop dogs, include the Komondor, the Puli, and the Bergamasco Shepherd. Some owners even cord the coats of Poodles or Havanese. An expert hand is required to maintain such a coat treatment. The cords require careful forming to prevent matting underneath.
Diet Supplements to Avoid Matted Dog Hair
A good diet is of monumental importance when it comes to maintaining your dog’s healthy coat. Healthy coats are less prone to matting. Consult your vet before adding supplements or making a food switch, but keep an eye out for such ingredients as fish oil or omega-3 to help your dog maintain a gleaming, mat-free coat . Dogs need lots of Omega-3s in their diets for strong immune systems and healthy fur.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you fix matted dog hair?
You fix matted dog hair one of two ways. Either undergo the process of de-matting, which involves a process of using your fingers, a comb, and a slicker brush to painstakingly work out the knots and tangles, or use clippers to trim carefully beneath the mat and give your dog a short trim.
Is matted hair painful for dogs?
Yes. Matted hair can be extremely painful for dogs. Every time the loose fur at the top of the coat brushes or snags on something, the skin is pulled at the base of the matting. Bruises and sores may develop, as uncomfortable skin infections.
Is it bad for dogs to have matted fur?
Yes. Matted fur can lead to serious health conditions. Even mild matting can be the source of skin irritation, lesions that are infected, and oozing sores with foul smells, not to mention accumulating maggots. Fleas and ticks also benefit from matting, hiding deep within the tangles out of your sight. Severe posterior mats can inhibit defecation in addition to collecting fecal matter. The most severe mats can even create strangulating wounds, generally seen on limbs; amputation may be required.