What Can I Do About My Dog’s Matted Coat?
Regular grooming with a brush or comb helps keep your dog’s coat in good condition by removing dander and dirt, spreading natural body oils throughout the hair coat, keeping the skin clean, and preventing tangles and mats.
Dogs with smooth, short coats (like that of a Boxer, Boston Terrier, or Basset Hound) typically only need brushing once a week. Dogs with short, dense fur prone to matting, like Retrievers and Labradors, need weekly brushing with a slicker brush (a brush with soft pads and angled flexible pins) to remove tangles and a bristle brush to catch dead hair. Long-haired pooches (Yorkies, Collies, Afghan Hounds, etc.) require daily attention with both a slicker brush and a bristle brush to keep hair coats clean, smooth, and mat free.
Besides the overall look of your dog, there are a number of health reasons why you should regularly brush your dog’s coat so that mats don’t occur.
- Matted hair can trap fleas, bugs, bacteria, moisture, and foreign matter against your dog’s skin. Skin sores can develop underneath the mats, become infected, and, in some neglected cases, affect skin and muscle tissue to the point where it sloughs away completely.
- When hair is very matted, groomers have to use a very low blade to get under the hair close to the skin to remove it. This puts a fast-moving, sharp, hot piece of metal (the blade) right against your dog’s skin. If your dog moves or jumps unexpectedly, she can get nicked or receive a serious skin cut. Additionally, close shaving also leaves your dog open for razor burns or skin irritation.
- When your dog’s ears become heavily matted, the sensitive skin on the ear tips can become constricted and the delicate blood vessels inside the skin can rupture, causing blood to pool inside the tips of the ears. These “hematomas” can be quite painful, and, when your pooch shakes her head, can bust open sending blood flying around the room. Hematomas require veterinary care to heal properly and not become infected.
How can I get rid of mats if I choose not to shave my dog?
You’ll need to thoroughly spray the mat with an all-natural detangling spraymaking sure to work the spray all the way through the hair to your dog’s skin. Using a comb, work from the outside of the mat (where the hair isn’t tangled) and slowly and gently untangle the hair in small strands. Hold the base of the mat closest to your dog’s body in two fingers as you work to avoid pulling the skin.
If a comb doesn’t work, use a tool called a “mat rake” to work through the tangled hair. The rake functions much the same way as a comb, but comes equipped with wide-spaced, sharp teeth that can cut through the mat. Note: Please hold your fingers around the base of the mat as you did when using a comb to avoid pulling your dog’s skin and possibly cutting her with the rake.
Your next mechanical option with a difficult mat is called a “mat splitter.” Splitters can be razor sharp, so you’ll need to be very careful not to cut yourself or your dog. Start by using your detangling spray, then very carefully splitting the mat of hair into vertical or horizontal strips. You can then work either your comb or rake through the smaller pieces of mat, again making sure to never pull your dog’s skin.
If you have a very furry dog, you may want to simply cut out that specific mat. On many breeds the missing patch of hair may not even be noticed. Note: BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN using scissors on a mat or a knot, because you can seriously injure your dog. A mat tends to pull the skin beneath it, and, if you cut that skin with scissors you can unintentionally create a wound that is bigger than the mat and that will need veterinary care.
Shaving your dog should be your last option.
Consider clipping your pooch only as a final option if the other techniques of removing a mat don’t work. Shaving a mat can leave a bare patch that takes quite a while to grow out.
Conversely, if your dog is matted all over her body, you may want to consider letting a professional groomer or your veterinarian shave her (this is the more compassionate choice, getting out all of those mats would be too painful). Both are fully equipped and knowledgeable in dealing with severely matted animals.
THE FINAL WORD
Don’t let your dog get matted in the first place. If you start to see mats use some of the techniques listed above. If it’s too late and the dog is completely matted, have the groomer shave the dog (Normally they can leave at least a little hair so the dog is not completely bald).