Matting – What to do

What is matting?

Matts are unsightly to look at and very uncomfortable for your dog. They pinch and pull, making him chew and try to de-matt his own coat.


What Causes Matting?

Most matts are created from external influences. The most common is lacking proper or regular GROOMING. Of course, there are other reasons. Fleas can cause a dog to chew frantically at his fur, causing knots and a tangled mess. We frequently see a matted dog is also infested with fleas. The matts provide a perfect hiding place for fleas and ticks that medication and shampoos may not be able to penetrate. Ear infections, excessively dirty ears, or ear mites can cause excessive scratching of the ears, which will result in matting behind the ears. If you allow your dog to become wet (bath, swimming pool, rain, etc.) and neglect to brush out his coat before and after he’s thoroughly dry, this will cause knots to form and existing knots to swell and grow worse. Skin allergies, food allergies, and certain skin diseases can contribute to matting as well. Allergies are very common now in dogs, especially those with white or mostly white fur. Conversely, matting can cause skin disorders! such as hot spots, seborrhea, dandruff, etc.


How can I prevent matting?

Brushing removes dead hair “shedding” from the coat. “Shedding” hair that is allowed to remain in medium to long-coated pets can easily tangle and matt, especially in “moving” areas like armpits and ears. ALL DOGS SHED, some just shed less than others. There is no such thing as a shed-less dog or cat.  Owners must address their own responsibility to care for their pet’s coat with regular brushing and combing.  A common excuse we hear is, “Fido is the kids’ responsibility.” Most, if not all, children are not able to take full responsibility for a pet. Whether they are 5 years old or 15. Yes, they may help fill the food dish or take him for a walk around the block, but if your child were to forget to feed Fido for a week, a month, or a year, you would obviously step in and take care of him. The same applies to all aspects of pet ownership, especially grooming. In a nutshell, ask your groomer, vet, or pet store professional how to properly brush and bathe your particular breed of pet. Schedule regular professional grooming and vet appointments. These simple, but sometimes tedious, tasks will go a long way in keeping your pet healthy and matt-free.

But my pet HATES being brushed…

Start young pets with brushing at an early age. Talk with your groomer and obedience instructor about ways to work with your pet so that the grooming process is a pleasant one. Older pets who already resent the process CAN be taught to enjoy or at least tolerate it… but it will take a lot more patience and a lot more treats! Or, just face the fact that you will either have to schedule more frequent grooming appointments, or deal with having a frequently shaved pet.


My pet is already matted, what should I do?

If your pet becomes matted, don’t make excuses… get him to a groomer and let them remove the matts safely, even if it means he’ll “look funny” for a little while. There are worse things in this world than a bad hair day. Sometimes, though rarely, depending on the severity of the matts, the type of fur, the temperament of the dog, and the patience and availability of the owner or groomer… SOMETIMES, the matts can be carefully combed out. This process is called de-matting. There are special tools that can be purchased to assist in de-matting. These tools should really only be used by professionals, as they usually contain razor-sharp blades and are complicated to manoeuvre. Dematting is a long, arduous process for both the pet and the groomer. If the groomer does think that de-matting can be accomplished safely, and she offers to do so, you should expect additional charges on your bill and a longer appointment time.

It should be noted that certain breeds are especially dangerous to de-matt. Maltese, for example, have paper-thin skin and tiny bodies and legs. They also become matted very easily! This popular and cute breed is supposed to have long, flowing white hair by its standard… but if yours becomes matted, the best solution is a shave down.


Will the hair grow back?

Most of the time, especially if it is the first time or the only time the pet has become matted, the hair will grow back just as it was before it was shaved off. However, some breeds do run a risk… double-coated breeds such as golden retrievers, german shepherds, collies, shelties, etc. shouldn’t really be shaved unless necessary, because of the nature of the coat. However, in matted cases, it is always better to get the matted fur off than to leave it on. If you are worried about the hair growing back properly, talk to your groomer about vitamin supplements and proper brushing that might help with the process.


What about detangling products?

Detangling conditioner sprays are available, but rarely work, and never on severe knots.


What if I try to de-matt my pet myself?

Owners should remember that matts should never, I repeat, NEVER be cut out with scissors. This is extremely dangerous and could result in severe injury. Matts that cannot be brushed out must be shaved off.  There are special tools that can be purchased to assist in de-matting. Matt-breakers, detangling combs, knives, thinning shears, etc. are some of the tools you might find at a better pet supply store or catalogue. These tools should really only be used by professionals, as they usually contain razor-sharp blades and are complicated to manoeuvre. You can ask your groomer to demonstrate proper and safe usage of a de-matting tool on your pet, but be aware that it takes a lot of patience and a lot of practice to operate them safely and effectively.

Again, once a coat is matted, we strongly suggest pet owners seek a professional for assistance with matting and possibly coat removal for the welfare of the pet.


Why does my pet seem so upset while he’s being dematted?

Pet owners need to understand that de-matting is uncomfortable for all pets, and they should leave it to a professional that knows how to minimize the impact of de-tangling and de-matting on your pet. It is not a simple process. In fact, there can be significant risks involved. Skin denied regular air circulation and stimulation from regular brushing becomes quite unhealthy. It is often dark pink to red and can be riddled with sores, warts, pimples, fleas, ticks, sticks, sticker burrs, or scabs. There may be foul odours and even organic matter like weeds or faeces embedded in the fur or skin. Skin that appears healthy at first, may become red and inflamed as it is uncovered, as it begins to “breathe.”  It’s a delicate and slow process to remove the coat on such a pet, requiring a significant and lengthy grooming experience. He’ll be tired of standing still, weary of the groomer entirely, and possibly sore from all the brushing and pulling.


Why is my pet so itchy after de-matting or shaving?

Coat removal can sometimes result in “razor burn” or little red itchy bumps or patches. Professional groomers take many precautions to avoid this, but in some cases, it will still occur. The skin has been under heavy fur for so long, that when the fur is removed, the blood rushes to the surface and becomes “irritation.” On floppy ears, there is a risk of a hematoma developing.