Matting – A Dog Grooming Guide to Prevention and Removal
What is matting? Any form of tangles in your dog’s hair. It can be anything from a tiny pin mat to a solid clump of tangled hair. Most dogs can get them if they are not groomed regularly. Severe mats can be extremely painful to your dog. A dog’s ears are extremely sensitive and highly prone to matting if not properly maintained. They have a large vein that circles the entire outer edge of the ear and thick mats can restrict blood flow, causing blood clots beneath the skin that can be painful and rupture. Matting can also keep moisture and parasites closer to the skin which can lead to major skin and coat problems including hair loss, sores, and scabs. It is vital to your dog’s health to maintain their brushing routine and avoid matting all together.
Dog Grooming Brushes and How to Prevent Matting
So, now that we all understand just how awful matting can be for animals, we can start from the beginning and prevent them at the start. Regular brushing and combing is the only way to surely prevent matting and maintain a long, lustrous coat. Depending on the breed and style of hair cut, your dog may need brushing as much as daily to as little as weekly. Our dog groomers can help you correctly asses your dog’s particular needs. There are various brushes, combs, and de-matting tools out there that serve different functions depending on the condition of the coat, coat density, and matt densty. Here is a list of basic tools most dog groomers use to maintain a tangle free coat on your dog.
- Slicker Brush – The thing to remember with slicker brushes is to use repetition and not pressure. Those little pins are great for brushing out the top layer of hair on any dog, but they can hurt! You should be able to run any grooming tool (except for scissors of course!) along your own arm and not feel pain. That’s why we always say, repetition not pressure!
- Comb – If your dog has a thick undercoat or long hair, a wire or metal comb is a must! Slicker brushes can make your dog look amazing on their own…on the surface. Brushing your dog’s hair with a sturdy comb after using the slicker brush will get the undercoat or lower layer of hair brushed out too. We have seen plenty of dogs that come in looking great on the surface, only to be completely matted underneath and require shaving anyway. Always brush then comb your dog’s hair.
- Mat Splitter or De-Mat tool – There are two main types of de-mat tools to choose from if your dog has a relatively thick mat that can be split apart. One is a rake style de-mat tool that has a thumb grip and many open sharp blades. It’s pretty big so I never recommend it. There are too many safety issues from the open blades to the size and possibilities of cutting yourself or the dog. The other, and our personal favorite is a curved mat splitter. It is much smaller than the other de-mat tool and has a curved edge so that only the tangle can fit inside. To use one of these tools, you simply find the mat and hold your fingers between the tangle and the dog’s skin to ensure your tool is away from the dog’s skin. Then you slide the blades under the tangle and gently rock outward, splitting the mat apart. Repeat the process as necessary. NEVER use these tools when tangles are close to the skin or on the ears, face, or near the hocks (back hip area) of a dog. These areas are prone to cutting when the tangles are close to the skin.
How to Remove Existing Mats Yourself and When to go to Your Dog Groomer
So, your dog is matted.. Now what? Some mats are small enough that a brush or comb can gently pull them out. Others are a little thicker or in patches and can be broken through, then brushed out with de-matting tools. Then there’s the dogs that are completely pelted with an all over, full body mat. The ONLY thing you can do in that situation or for mats that are right next of the skin is shave it. That doesn’t mean we can keep it fluffy or brush it out. We have to shave it to the skin for the safety of the animal. Too much brushing can cause brush burn and even cuts on the skin that can be painful and itchy for the dog. Shaving with a longer blade is more dangerous because the groomer can’t see or feel where the skin is through the mat and can easily cut into the skin. A #10 or #15 blade are the safest blades to remove close-to-the-skin mats and tangles. Allow extra time for shaving out mats and tangles because of the care it takes to safely remove them. That being said, it’s OKAY that you bring your dog to us if he/she is matted. Do not be embarrassed or think we will hate you forever. We are here to help you and your dog. Bringing your dog in to be groomed is the first step to a healthier pet. Also, REMEMBER: the hair will grow back! Our number one concern is not the overall appearance, though we love making your dog look amazing, but the health and happiness of your pet. We will absolutely try to give you the look you desire while keeping your dog happy. Contact one of our talented dog groomers for a full assessment and more details.