Grooming Guide: Tips on How to Avoid Matting
If your dog has developed hardened clumps of hair that can't be brushed through with a comb or brush, your dog has likely developed matted hair that requires a more intensive approach to removal. Matting doesn't develop overnight, but the longer they've been in place, the more difficult they can be to remove—and the more painful these mats will be for your dog.
Regular grooming is your best defense against painful, potentially hazardous matting. Whether you're dealing with an existing case of matting or just looking for ways to make sure your dog isn't affected by this condition, here's an overview of how matted hair develops, along with tips for matted dog hair removal and prevention.
What Causes Matted Fur On My Dog?
Matted fur develops when hair fibers on your dog become tangled and knotted together, creating small clumps that steadily grow over time. Matting can be accelerated if your dog has curly or wiry hair that is more prone to getting tangled together. Certain types of dogs, such as poodles and bichon frisés, are well-known for their risk of matting if not properly washed, dried, and brushed, which is one reason these dogs' coats are considered more high-maintenance than the fur on other breeds of dogs.
In addition, irregular bathing and/or wet hair that isn't properly dried can both lead to increased matting as hair becomes stuck together. Your dog's behavior may increase the risk of matting in places where they regularly scratch or rub themselves, as this creates friction that can accelerate the formation of tangles and knots.
Health Risks of Matted Dog Hair
Even mild cases of matted hair can pose a health risk to your dog. When matting becomes severe or is left unaddressed, more serious injuries or hazards can also develop. The most likely health risks of matting include:
- Irritation to the skin. Matted hair can create sores on your dog's skin and open up sores that could become infected. These infections can lead to serious health complications, including the arrival of fleas, ticks, and even maggots.
- Soiling of the hair from urine and/or feces. Mats around your dog's private parts can collect and retain urine and feces. These waste materials can make matted hair clumps even more unsanitary, and potentially accelerate skin irritation and the risk of infection. In some cases, matting may block your dog's ability to relieve themselves, creating an urgent sanitation and health concern.
- Restricted movement and/or strangulation risks. In cases of severely matted dog hair, mats can restrict the free movement of a dogs' limbs and/or neck. If a dog becomes entangled in these mats, the hair could even restrict blood flow into the limb and jeopardize the health of that limb if not promptly freed.
Is Matted Dog Hair Painful?
While the mats themselves can be very uncomfortable for your dog, the effects of matting on your dog's skin and body can be a source of unbearable pain. The open sores and parasites accompanying matted hair can be extremely painful to the touch. Since mats are often located in parts of the body where the dog is regularly experiencing friction or touch, the pain from these sores can be hard to avoid.
As the severity of matting worsens, the pain your dog experiences may also increase. Neglected dogs who have developed severe matting are often found to be in clear pain and discomfort as a result of their hair's condition.
If your dog has mats that need to be removed, keep in mind that improper mat removal can actually be more painful to your dog than the mats themselves. If you're trying to address the clumping on a matted dog, grooming or a vet visit is often recommended to make sure these mats are removed safely and with minimal pain or discomfort for your dog.
How to Remove Matted Dog Hair and Prevent Future Matting
Even if your dog has already developed matted hair, proper treatment and education can help you remove these mats and prevent this from even occurring in the future. Here are some tips on how to get rid of mats and keep them from coming back:
- Gently try to brush through mats on your own. If your brushing is unable to break through the clumps, or if your dog is exhibiting signs of being in pain, the matting is likely too difficult for you to remove on your own.
- Visit a groomer or vet to have the mats carefully removed. Never try to cut out mats on your own, as one abrupt movement by you or your dog can lead to additional puncture or laceration wounds on top of existing sores. The best way to get mats out of dog hair is to visit a vet or professional groomer. They will be able to carefully remove mats without injuring your dog or putting them through unnecessary discomfort.
- Regularly brush and dry your dog's hair after bathing. Thoroughly drying and brushing hair is the best way to remove mats. If your dog has curly hair or hair that is prone to matting, you may need to brush its hair multiple times a week, or possibly even daily, to fully prevent mats from developing.
Matted hair may be painful and potentially dangerous, but it's easily addressed and even easier to prevent with regular grooming and hygiene habits. If your dog is prone to matted hair, stay on top of bathing, drying and brushing to make sure they don't go through this painful experience.