You probably know the feeling of running your hands through your dog’s normally luscious fur when suddenly you feel something strange—a scratchy patch of knotted fur that won’t come out with gentle finger-combing. These are called hair mats.
If you’re currently dealing with a lot of them, don’t worry. Mats are common in dogs, and thankfully, they’re also treatable and preventable with the right awareness and care.
Read on to discover the best ways to get mats out of your dog’s hair, what causes mats in dog hair, and how to prevent them altogether.
Causes of Mats
Mats are a part of life for dog owners, especially if your dog is active. Of course, to have matted hair, your dog needs to have a coat to begin with. That’s why they’re more common in dogs with long, woolly, or curly fur—particularly the Poodle, Doodle, Curly coat, Cocker Spaniel, Bishon, or ShihTzu.
There are other reasons mats may appear on your pup as well besides exercise:
- Friction – Anything that is in constant contact with your dog’s skin can cause friction, which can cause mats. That means wearable items like collars, harnesses, dog clothes, shoes, etc. Make sure your dog’s accessories are comfortable and don’t move around too much.
- Scratching – If you see matting primarily around the ears, sides, or wherever else they can scratch and lick excessively, look out for common culprits: fleas and allergies. Take your dog to the vet if you suspect allergies, and make sure your dog is getting the flea treatment they need.
- Change of Season – Ever seen a Newfoundland or Malamute shed in the spring? It’s like they’re always being followed around by little white clouds or trailing soap suds behind them. If you have been wondering how to stop a dog from shedding, it’s usually normal! A few times a year certain dogs shed their undercoat to prepare their fur for the coming warmer months. This much shedding can create the perfect environment for mats to manifest.
- Water – You may already be familiar with mats if your dog loves running outside in the rain, swimming, or rubbing their belly in the wet grass. If a dog is not properly brushed out when dry, water can actually make the mats tighter and worsen the situation. So, always be sure to rid your dog of mats before bath time.
Large Mats Can Be Painful
Whatever the underlying cause, tangled fur should be taken care of as soon as possible. If left alone, the mats will only get bigger and harder to remove with time. Small mats are nuisances; large mats can be painful to your dog.
The knotted hair pulls together, blocking oxygen and trapping moisture. When not taken out, matting results in irritation and skin sores. More extreme cases can even cause hematomas, cut off circulation, and mask more serious conditions, like parasites.
Below are methods on how to remove matted dog hair from your dog’s wonderful coat before anything like that happens.
How to Remove Stubborn Mats
Even the best-cared for coats can get matted and tangled from time to time. So what’s the best way to detangle fur?
Follow these tips for a smooth dematting operation.
- Whenever handling a mat in your dog’s fur, make sure you pinch the base of the mat with your fingers and keep your hand against your dog’s skin. That way, your hand acts as a barrier between the mat and the sensitive skin beneath. Any brushing or detangling will only graze your hand.
- Because mats naturally trap moisture, it helps to dry out the mat completely before you get to work on it. A teaspoon of cornstarch is puppy-safe and a perfect drying agent for your dematting process.
- If the mat is large, tools like a mat breaker may help split up the mat so you can work on individual pieces. A mat breaker is a tool that resembles a comb with nine claw-like teeth, designed to reach under the mats and pull up and out. Just make sure you don’t cut through too much, or instead of breaking up the mat, you could pluck out your dog’s fur.
- A slicker brush can be useful in basic detangling once the mat is small enough. Slicker brushes have hard wire bristles with bent ends. The ends may be sharp, so make sure your hand is securely beneath the mat when you brush it out to protect your pup’s sensitive skin.
- Once the mat is nearly detangled, a pin brush, with its densely-packed bristles, will help the hair recombine with the rest of the coat. You can finish off with a steel comb, beginning with the wide-toothed end and working your way to the finer teeth to make sure all the tangles are gone.
Shaving your Dog’s Fur: A Last Resort
If there is a large amount of matted fur, brushing out mats may not be an option. You may need to shave part, or all, of your pup. But shaving your dog isn’t the easy way out; it’s a slow, careful process, especially because the skin below is so sensitive and delicate.
The best dog clippers for matted hair should be heavy-duty to make clipping quick and easy, and they should not overheat. Low to medium speed clippers are preferred for such a careful job. If you can’t find clippers for the dog fur, your best bet is to visit your local groomer and let the professionals take the wheel.
What Not to Do
When removing a hair mat from your dog’s fur, there are a few maneuvers you want to avoid.
- Do not cut the mat out with scissors or a grooming tool. Not only can this cause a non-uniform coat, but it’s extremely easy to cut your dog’s tender skin accidentally—especially if they suddenly jump out of nervousness or excitement.
- If your dog has “pelting,” do not attempt to remove the mats yourself. Pelting occurs when your dog’s undercoat is completely matted together, and you cannot reach the skin when brushing. This case requires a vet or groomer to carefully shave off the fur with clippers.
- Don’t take risks when there’s matting around your dog’s ears. Ear skin is thin, delicate, and full of blood vessels. Instead of trying to brush mats out of the ears, opt for shaving them from the get-go.
How to Prevent Mats
Wondering how to care for dog hair to prevent mats? The best way to handle mats is to avoid them altogether. Mats can be prevented with a combo of lifestyle and dietary choices.
If you’ve been wondering “Why is my dog losing hair?” even with mats, look into their diet! To keep your dog’s hair follicles strong, make sure you’re feeding them a diet full of nutrients. Opt for meals high in protein, fats, and Omega-3s.
In addition, make sure your dog is actually making use of the nutrients you’re giving them. With supplements made of natural ingredients and packed with vitamins and minerals your dog needs for a healthy coat, you can ensure your dog is living their best and most beautiful life.
Vetericyn’s ALL-IN comes in three formulas perfect for your dog at every stage of its life, plus it’s packed with prebiotics and antioxidants. Additionally, if you have been wondering how to make a dog’s coat shiny, look no further. With ALL-IN, you’re guaranteeing a glossy, healthy coat and a happy, healthy dog.
Frequent bathing is essential to mat prevention. While you should avoid bathing your dog if it has mats already, regular bathing washes away any excess hair that brushing didn’t catch.
The perfect bath starts with Vetericyn FoamCare® Pet Shampoo. Vetericyn’s pH-balanced formula is spray-on and instantly foaming, making bathtime faster and more fun.
Vetericyn offers three formulas: FoamCare® Pet Shampoo for all coats, FoamCare® Pet Shampoo for thick coats, and FoamCare® Medicated Pet Shampoo for extra sensitive skin or pups with dermatological conditions. Whatever your dog’s needs are, they deserve a gentle, nourishing wash and a gorgeous coat.
Brushing and Grooming
Brushing your dog is not just beneficial in preventing mats. It cuts down on shedding, massages the skin, brings healthy oils to the surface, and makes your pup’s coat glossy, shiny, and tangle-free.
You can brush your dog once or several times a day, depending on their preference. It should be like a mini-massage for them, and a bonding experience for the both of you. Make sure you’re choosing the right brushes for your dog.
Long-haired and curly dogs need something that dives through their fur and gently divides. You can utilize slicker brushes or pin brushes and a detangler spray to detangle, as well as undercoat rakes to get at that excessive springtime shedding before it happens.
Medium to short-haired dogs can benefit from curry combs and soft bristle brushes. When brushing, make sure you’re gently going from nose to tail, including legs, ears, and everything in between.
Haircuts can help too. Trim your dog’s hair every 4 to 6 weeks to keep the length manageable and the mats to a minimum.
Live Mat-Free with Vetericyn
Mats happen. Every dog that loves to swim, roll in the wet grass, or has gorgeous flowing curls—in other words, almost all dogs—will at some point experience them. So there’s no shame if you feel that unruly little lump in your puppy’s fur. It’s just another part of dog life that needs taking care of.
Whether you’re trying to prevent mats from happening or have had a few tangled run-ins already, Vetericyn has you covered. Our products will provide your dog with a strong, healthy coat from the inside out.
- Wag! How to Prevent Your Dog’s Hair From Matting. https://wagwalking.com/wellness/how-to-prevent-your-dogs-hair-from-matting
- Andrea Arden. How to Remove Mats From Your Dog’s Coat. https://andreaarden.com/dog-health/how-to-remove-mats-from-your-dogs-coat/
- WoofGang Bakery & Grooming. What Your Groomer Wants You to Know About Matting. https://woofgangflemingisland.com/blog/what-your-groomer-wants-you-to-know-about-matting/
- The Spruce Pets. Dealing With a Shedding Dog. https://www.thesprucepets.com/reduce-dog-shedding-1118286#:~:text=This%20process%20is%20sometimes%20called,thicker%2C%20warmer%20coats%20for%20winter.
- Breeding Business. 7 Best Clippers for Matted Dogs. https://breedingbusiness.com/best-clippers-for-matted-dogs/