Untangling the Knots: Understanding Matting in Dogs, Its Harmful Effects and Proactive Prevention Tips

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We’ve heard it many times before: “They shaved my pet! I asked for a trim!”

Contrary to how a pet owner may immediately feel after remarking this statement, we’re not razor-loving monsters. We do want to make your pet look like the picturesque pet on the cover of a fancy magazine, and our hearts flutter every time we complete a groom and take a proud photo of their beautiful transformation. But even more, we desire to take care of your pet, set them up for success, and ensure they are free of painful matting that may give rise to additional problems.

This blog aims to help bridge the divide between a groomer’s nightmare (finding matting in a dog’s coat) and a pet owner’s nightmare (learning their pet needs to be shaved at the grooming salon). With proactive, routine care for their pet’s coat at home between professional grooming appointments, a pet owner can prevent problematic and painful matting in their pet’s coat.

Read on to learn about the important topic of mat prevention and the risks of matting. Learn how often you should brush your pet, what parts of their coat you should prioritize, different brushes for different uses, and more. 

What are Mats and How are They Formed? 

Mats are essentially masses of hair that intertwine into clumps, wrapping around themselves and trapping dead fur. They are the result of friction and shedding. Without daily care, mats grow larger and tighter, causing constant pulling on the dog’s skin. This discomfort and pain often prompts behaviors like licking, itching or biting. These actions can potentially result in hot spots, skin infections and bruising forming on the dog’s skin. Breeds with long, silky coats, curly hair or a mixture of both are more prone to matting. 

Matting in dogs tends to occur more frequently during seasonal changes when a dog’s coat transitions to adapt to upcoming warm or cold weather. Also, activities like swimming can almost guarantee matting if a pet’s coat is not tended to afterward. 

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The Risks of Grooming a Matted Dog 

Brushing out mats can be a time-consuming and distressing process. Each brushstroke pulls on the dog’s skin, potentially leading to issues like skin tears, brush burn, bruising and even bleeding. Pet groomers aim to make your pet as comfortable as possible when receiving care.

Even when shaving mats, there are inherent risks to consider. Dense matting in dogs can lead to the canine’s skin becoming loose due to the weight and constant pulling of the mats. This can pose a challenge for groomers. To effectively remove tangled hair, pet groomers must work very closely to the skin. Despite the utmost care taken by the pet stylist, there is still a possibility of a dog accidentally getting nicked during the process.

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“Humanity Before Vanity” 

If brushing out mats isn’t healthy for the animal, groomers will shave the mats out instead in order to provide the necessary relief for the pet. 

Most matting is caught by groomers during their inspection at the beginning of their appointment, and customers are informed immediately regarding how the groomer will proceed with care. Occasionally, matting isn’t discovered until the grooming process has begun. In this situation, our staff will reach out to the pet owner to inform them if shaving is necessary before they shave the pet. We aim to be transparent with our services and treatments, and we aim to never leave customers surprised by our actions upon pickup.

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How Can A Pet Owner Prevent Mats? 

Follow the following tips and regularly ensure your pet is tangle free to prevent matting, pain, and an unexpected shave at your next professional grooming appointment.

Schedule Consistent Grooming Appointments 

A dog’s maintenance needs are based on the length and thickness of their fur. To ensure consistent care, it’s crucial to schedule appointments with your groomers based on the recommended frequency for your specific pet. The goal is to avoid resorting to the complete shaving of your dog’s coat at each session due to insufficient grooming practices. 

Regular grooming appointments, ideally every 4-6 weeks, contribute to a healthy coat. If in-home upkeep is challenging, especially for dogs with easily matted, curly or thick hair, consider scheduling with a groomer every 2-4 weeks. Short-hair breeds like pugs, beagles and pit bulls can extend the gap between professional grooming appointments to every 6-8 weeks. 

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Brush Areas of High Priority 

When it comes to brushing your dog, it’s common for pet owners to concentrate on the back and top of the head, but these areas are actually less prone to matting and require less brushing. For optimal mat prevention, redirect your brushing efforts to focus on the areas most prone to developing mats. 

It is better to brush the front, under the ears, legs, the base of the tail and the neck where the collar rubs. These regions are most susceptible to matting and should be attended to first before addressing other areas. Implement daily at-home care using appropriate brushes between grooming visits. To learn more about brushing a dog correctly, read this blog. 

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Brushing Dogs After They Get Wet  

A vital grooming tip is to brush your dog’s hair after it gets wet, as moisture can intensify the risk of mat formation. Following activities like bathing, swimming or exposure to rain, it’s advisable to promptly brush your canine’s coat before the hair fully dries. This step is important because waiting too long allows the fur to tangle and tighten into mats. 

Brushing damp fur helps get rid of knots, removes excess moisture and results in a smooth, even drying process. This preventative measure not only maintains the visual appeal of your dog’s coat but also decreases the risk of matting and discomfort.

The Right Brushes to Use to Prevent Matting in Dogs 

Slicker Brush 

The slicker brush is versatile for various coat types and addresses common grooming challenges. With its fine, short wires, this essential tool excels at detangling, preventing mats and efficiently removing loose hair. It’s particularly suited for double coats, curly coats and wire coats. This brush can navigate through different textures with ease. To maximize its effectiveness, brush in the direction of hair growth for a comfortable grooming experience for your dog. Be mindful of over-brushing with a slicker brush, as this can cause brush burn. 

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Metal comb 

The fine-toothed comb’s design allows it to gently and effectively navigate through mats and tangles. The narrow teeth of the comb enable precise dematting, making it particularly useful for addressing challenging areas where tangles may be more intricate or close to the skin. 

To get the best results, use the metal comb after the slicker brush. The slicker brush effectively loosens and detangles larger knots. Follow with the comb to target smaller and more intricate tangles that you find on your dog’s coat. 

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Pin Rake

The pin rake was designed specifically for double-coated breeds. This tool excels at removing the excess undercoat to help reduce shedding and prevent the accumulation of excess fur. To use the pin rake, employ gentle pressure when brushing and follow the natural growth pattern of the fur. This ensures that the tool effectively extracts the dead hair without causing irritation to the dog’s skin.

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Check Your Work with a Comb 

When grooming your dog, it is important to double-check your work with a comb. Proceed with brushing only if the comb cannot easily slide through the dog’s hair. If you encounter difficulty working through the coat with either a slicker brush or a comb, it’s a clear sign that it’s time to stop brushing and enlist the expertise of a professional groomer. 

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Make a Commitment to Grooming 

Dedicated grooming for your dog’s coat demonstrates your commitment to their well-being. Create an effective grooming plan by integrating the appropriate brushes, employing correct techniques and scheduling timely grooming appointments based on your dog’s specific coat type. These tips are key to preventing painful matting and ensuring your canine companion’s comfort during the grooming process.