How to Free Your Dog from Mats

Anyone who has a long-haired dog or one with thick or curly hair knows how it feels; you're running your fingers through your pet's coat, and they catch on a tight knot. Sometimes it seems like mats appear out of nowhere. These dense knots can cause problems for your pup, and they will only worsen if you don't take care of them.

But that doesn't mean you must rush to the dog groomer to de-mat your dog. With a bit of patience, some grooming tips, and the right tools, you can get rid of the mats yourself, ensuring your companion has a comfortable and healthy coat.

What causes mats?

Any dog with long enough fur can develop mats, but certain breeds are more prone to them, such as Poodles, Goldendoodles, Cocker Spaniels, Shih Tzu, Maltese, and Bichon Frise. These stubborn clumps of hair can be caused by a number of factors.

Shedding

When your dog is losing hair because of seasonal changes, the loose strands easily get tangled and knotted with the rest of their coat.

Friction

Areas that rub, such as the armpits or where the collar or harness rides, easily develop mats. Any regular back-and-forth motion against the hair can encourage mats to form.

Scratching

When a dog scratches because of allergies, fleas, or dry skin, the motion of their claws or teeth can create tangles that grow into mats. Even repeated licking can create knots.

Water

If your dog likes to swim, romp on wet grass, or play in the snow, that wet dog smell isn't your only concern. Wet dog hair mats much more quickly.

Why are mats a problem?

Of course, mats aren't attractive, but these stubborn knots aren't just a cosmetic problem. The tight tangle of fibers tugs on the skin, causing pain. Moisture and parasites can get trapped under mats, causing even more problems for the skin.

If mats have been a problem for your dog for a while, removing them will probably be uncomfortable. This often leaves dogs with sore, itchy skin. Since scratching is one of the things that can cause more mats, this can be a frustrating cycle to break.

If the mats grow large enough, they can even pull the skin so tight that it restricts blood flow, creating bruising and wounds. If a dog develops large mats that are close to the skin, it's known as pelted. In this situation, it's best to have a dog groomer or vet take care of the mats. Your dog will probably need to be shaved to get rid of the problem.

How can you prevent mats?

The best way to prevent mats is to keep your dog's coat clean and groomed. Either take them to a dog groomer regularly or keep on top of their trims yourself. If they need a bath, be sure to use gentle, moisturizing products, to reduce irritation and itching. Be careful to thoroughly dry their coat when you're done. (Note: don't give your dog a bath if they already have mats, because water will make them worse.)

To make sure you keep up with untangling knots before they become mats, you may have to brush your dog every day. Remove their collar or harness to make sure you can reach all the areas you need to. To make sure you aren't just brushing the top layer of their coat, many groomers recommend that you use a metal comb and a slicker brush or pin brush. The metal comb will help you find the tangles, and the brush will help you work through them.

For dogs that shed a lot, a de-shedding brush will help you clear out loose hair. Whatever type of brush you use on your dog, a conditioning detangling spray can make the job much easier and help to keep their coat sleek.

How do you remove mats?

Despite your best efforts, your dog will probably still manage to develop a few mats. It happens. If you discover large, tight mats, it's best to let a professional groomer or vet shave them. But for just a few small mats, you can probably take care of them at home before they get any worse.

First of all: don't try to cut them out with scissors! It's way too easy to accidentally cut your dog's skin, which can cause so much bleeding that they need stitches. It's much safer to shave them out using clippers.

Instead, use an oil-based detangling spray to soften the knots. Then hold onto the fur between the mat and the skin, to minimize pulling. Try to gently pull the mat apart into smaller tangles. Then, using a metal comb, comb it out with short, fast strokes. Once you can smoothly run the comb through the fur, follow up with a slicker brush to brush out their coat, so it's sleek and tangle-free.

A dematting rake can be helpful, but be sure to use it carefully. Don't try to slice through the mat on a single stroke, but use it gently on the edges to untangle it and break it up into smaller pieces.

As you work to remove a mat, your dog will probably become uncomfortable and try to pull away. Take frequent breaks and give them treats to help them relax. Take your time, and you'll soon have a happy pup with a smooth coat.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get rid of matted hair on a dog?

If the mat isn't very big or too close to the skin, you can try to gently detangle it yourself. Use an oil-based detangling spray and carefully work through the mat with a steel comb.

Is matted hair painful for dogs?

It can be, especially large, tight, stubborn mats that cause pressure on the skin. Moisture, germs, and parasites can hide behind mats, leading to skin problems and pain.

What loosens matted dog hair?

With a good detangling spray, the right tools, and some patience, you may be able to work through a small section of matted fur and comb it out.

Mats can be miserable, but you can help get them out of your dog's coat. At Animals Matter, we understand how important your pup is to you, so we do our best to offer the information and products you need to give them their best life. For more information, contact us today.

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