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Dealing with matted fur in dogs

Dealing with matted fur in dogs

Grooming & Hygiene

If your dog is groomed and brushed regularly, you should never find yourself in the position of having to deal with patches or clumps of matted fur, which can be unpleasant for both you and your dog! However, some dogs are particularly prone to fur matting, and even with conscientious grooming, it can be difficult to keep on top of things and spot potential problem areas before an issue arises.

One option to deal with matted fur is of course to whisk your dog along to a professional grooming salon to deal with the issue, although in most cases, there is no reason at all why you can’t deal with isolated areas of matting or recurrent problem areas yourself.

Read on to find out more about how to deal with matted fur on your dog.

What causes matted fur?

A mat of fur or hair generally occurs when hair that is shed by the coat is retained within the fabric of the remaining attached hair, and is not shed around the house. This then firms a solid clump that entangles further hairs, and shed skin cells. These can be very itchy and unpleasant for your dog! Non-shedding dogs such as the Poodle and various Poodle hybrids such as the Labradoodle are particularly prone to this, but they are not the only ones! Dogs with long hair, even if it is silky, can be prone to knots and matting if they are not brushed sufficiently, and this can be more of a problem in some areas of the body than others. Working dogs and those that are prone to getting mucky (such as the Springer Spaniel, or any other dog that likes mud and water!) may develop matted hair in the areas where their fur is longest or in regular contact with mud or other clumping agents. Unfortunately, the area around the backside is a common problem area, and the mats of fur in this region will often be mucky with faeces.

Problem areas

While matting can develop on any part of the coat, particularly in long or thick haired dogs, there are certain spots that are more likely to be missed when grooming or develop matting than others. These include:

  • Around the ears and the sides of the face
  • The under carriage and around the anal glands
  • In the chest hair
  • Along the feathering of the legs
  • Under the armpits

Pay special attention to these areas when grooming your dog or checking them over for mats!

Using the right tools

In order to remove matting from your dog’s fur, it is important to do this safely and with the minimum amount of pulling or pain, and to keep yourself safe at the same time. While you may have to clip or cut out stubborn matted areas, you may find that you can untangle less severe mats without the need to cut the patch of fur off!

Before you begin, have to hand:

  • Leads and a means of securing your dog firmly so that they cannot move around too much
  • A muzzle if your dog is at all likely to snap if stressed or if you pull their hair
  • A conditioning spray that is oil, not water based
  • A tangle teaser or similar brush designed for dense, thick hair
  • Small scissors that do not have sharply pointed ends
  • A mat comb (a special comb that has blades instead of tines)
  • A mat splitter, which is curved with a blade edge to get under the surface of mats
  • Some treats for your dog to pacify and reward them for good behaviour
  • Some old cloths to wipe off your tools with

How to remove mats

Once you have secured your dog properly to begin, make sure that they cannot move around too much and that you can get to the area that you are tackling.

  • Be prepared to take your time working on mats, and if there are lots of them, accept that you might not be able to address them all in the one day, as your dog will become bored or stressed if restricted for too long.
  • Never rush when removing mats, and use scissors only as a last resort, as mats are generally close to the skin and it is all too easy to cut or nick your dog if you cannot feel where the hair ends and the skin begins, or if the dog moves suddenly.
  • Begin by identifying the matted area, and separating any fur surrounding it that is not matted.
  • Spray the area liberally with the oil spray, and then use your fingers to try to work into the knots of the mat and remove as much of it as possible with your hands. Try as well to lift the mat from the surface of the skin, so that you will be able to get the whole mat off without risking cutting your dog.
  • Next, use the tangle teaser to try to make some inroads into the top of the matting; you may be able to split the mat into smaller parts that will make it easier and quicker to break up.
  • Once you have gone as far as you can with the tangle teaser, use the mat comb to comb over the surface of the matting, which should cut some of the hairs clumped together and again, allow you to work your fingers into the mat.
  • Use the mat splitter to gently saw off clumps of fur that you cannot break down with your hands, which should be enough to raise an edge of the mat and allow you to continue to lift it from the skin and separate it.
  • If you cannot ‘break in’ to the mat using any of the tools and techniques mentioned, it is time to reach for the scissors, but only if you have tried out all of the other tools. Try to use the scissors just to free an edge of the matting that you can then work with, rather than to entirely cut off mats that are very close to the skin, as there is always the risk of cutting the skin, no matter how careful you are.
  • Once you have removed the matted areas, thoroughly brush the hair that is left, and trim it if necessary. Remember to brush and groom your dog regularly, to avoid mats developing in problem areas again in the future!