Getting to grips with matted dog fur

Matted Dog Fur

A happy dog is often one that’s just had a wonderful run, roll and rummage in your garden or local park. Tangled fur and muddy noses usually accompany these wonderful days out.

Listen to this article: Getting to grips with matted dog fur

Washing them clean is the easy part, but what about matted dog hair, full of dense knots?

It would be easy to think this is something you can just ignore, that your dog will clean itself. However, matted dog hair can have serious repercussions. In this article, we untangle the topic of de-matting dog hair and explain why regular visits to your local dog groomers is such a wise decision!

What’s meant by dog matting?

Matting is when your dog’s fur has become substantially knotted and interwound, making it impossible to run a normal pet grooming brush through it. Shampooing can't fix this level of tousled dog fur, nor are de-tangling brushes sufficient to smooth out these clumps of fur without hurting your dog.

Naturally, breeds of dogs with long fur tend to be more prone to matting, such as sheepdogs, spaniels, Afghans, collies and setters. This issue becomes even more possible when you own curly-haired breeds, such as poodles, some types of terriers, Bichon Frise and Puli (known as mop dogs).

Then, of course, you have the additional grooming challenges presented by double-coated dogs, such as Labradors, retrievers, huskies and chows. These are characterised by a soft undercoat and a harsher top layer of fur.

Is matted fur unpleasant for dogs?

On the surface of this issue, an area of badly tangled fur can simply look unsightly. However, it can also be a source of discomfort and even a health risk.

You know yourself if you have a bad hair knot it can be painful when you run your fingers through it. The same applies to fur matting in pets. Even slightly matted fur can become sore from constant snagging.

More seriously still, matted fur is a breeding ground for problems! Moisture can be trapped there, and airflow is limited, leaving your dog at the mercy of parasites and infections. In some cases, the knots impact on blood flow through your dog's skin, causing hematoma (blood pooling). This level of matting and side effects may even require intervention from a vet.

Why does dog fur get matted?

With so many breeds susceptible to clumps of badly tangled fur – and some significant health risks involved - how can you prevent the problem? Brushing up on the causes of fur matting can help you with this.

  • Active areas: Understandably, matted fur is most likely to occur around the parts of the dog where there is most friction, such as where their collar or harness rests, or around the top of their legs.
  • Dense fur: Many breeds of dogs have particularly strong fur growth around their ears – not least many spaniel types! Matting may happen when your dog scratches behind their ears.
  • Allergies and discomfort: Some dogs – at some points in the year – become sensitive to all sorts of things they pick up on walks. If they excessively lick or do other self-grooming activities in response, they can accidentally matt their own fur.
  • Flea infection: Scratching to relieve an itch anywhere on their body can result in severe fur tangles for some dogs. Keep up those vital flea treatments!
  • Overly dry coarse, tightly curled or coiled hair: If you have a breed prone to matting, excessive dryness makes it likely to become badly knotted. Make sure your dog is eating a well-balanced diet – including omega-3 fatty acids – to keep their fur in tip-top health.
  • Wet fur: Baths, swimming and being out in the rain can mean your dog shakes and rubs itself, and you provide a brisk towelling to prevent them from drenching your carpets! All of this can potentially be a cause of dog fur matting.

Being aware of these can help you to stay ahead of the issue. Give your dog regular gentle brushing in key areas, so you don't get an ever-worsening tangle there. However, as many of the above are hard to avoid, you may still need specialist dog grooming help from time to time.

How to de-matt dogs

What should you do to tackle matted fur? Much depends on how severe the problem is, and in some cases home remedies are possible.

Keep in mind though, that a dog’s fur is there to help it to regulate temperature and protect its skin, so simply hacking off or home-shaving patches of matting is not an option. Not least as it could leave your pet at risk of skin penetration and infections!

If you spot areas of fur that appear to be significantly tangled, and that don’t smooth down with a gentle grooming brush, you may be able to stop it from getting worse and sort it yourself.

Opinions vary on whether dogs should be wet or dry when you attempt to untangle matted fur. However, if you use a quality shampoo and conditioner, it can lead to mild knots loosening naturally. This can make it easier to brush through fur when it's freshly cleaned too.

Also, a playful bath after a tiring walk could give you an opportunity to gently brush out knotted areas while your dog enjoys a relaxing cuddle.

There are detangling sprays and specialist tools that help you to undo lightly knotted fur. Make sure the brush you are using is appropriate for your pet, and of good quality. Long-haired breeds particularly need to be brushed or combed with specialist products that are kind but thorough and that avoid static.

Also, keep in mind it may take a while to thoroughly remove all the knots and interwoven strands! That’s not always possible if you have a dog that gets restless and easily bored.

Proceed with care so you don’t accidentally hurt your beloved pet with a sharp tug. They are unlikely to willingly engage in future grooming sessions if they become fearful of pain.

Dealing with significant matting

If you are not able to gently deal with tangled fur yourself, or the matting is severe or covering a large area, what can you do?

The answer is simple. Seek out the services of dog groomers in Chelmsford who can provide a caring and complete solution. The aim is always to relieve the problem in a way that still leaves your dog with as much hair length as possible, so its fur can continue to carry out all of its vital functions.

More reasons to visit a dog groomer

How do professional dog groomers deal with matting on dogs? With large amounts of patience, and the correct tools and skills, basically.

It can be a process of working gradually around the area of concern, working on fur section by section.

It may be possible to easy out the interwoven strands once the fur is trimmed shorter, for example. Expert dog groomers wield their specialist blades with great dexterity and caution and can create delicate fur cuts that protect the skin, and hair follicles.

This level of professionalism also ensures that your dog remains calm and comfortable while the matted areas are being eradicated.

Of course, substantial dog de-matting appointments can leave your beloved pet with far shorter hair than normal. But this is a small price to pay for finding a kind way to deal with matted fur.

If severe and extensive matted fur is the result of ignoring the problem for some time, a groomer sometimes has no choice but to shave the dog. This would always be discussed with the owner and done with the greatest of care and follow-up advice.

Can I not shave my dog myself?

Leaving your dog with badly interwoven clumps of fur is clearly risky. However, it’s equally important to emphasise the reasons you shouldn’t do a DIY fix, with dog hair clippers you bought online for example.

Any significant grooming activities can put your dog’s health at risk if you are not trained and experienced. A dog’s skin can be quite delicate in places – especially around its ears and belly. It is far too easy to nick or penetrate these areas.

Also, dog hair can grow thick and easily matt around their rear end. Going gung ho with home dog grooming equipment here leaves them exposed to additional risk of skin infections and discomfort.

Knowing where to stop when shaving your dog can be tricky too – especially when you own a breed that has a double coat. You could go much deeper down than you need to. Or, you could think you have gone far enough down to remove tangled fur, and unwittingly leave a less obvious matted area untouched.

Last tips for fur matting prevention

Some of the causes and ways to avoid badly interwoven and knotted fur have been outlined above. However, we just wanted to ‘clean up’ on one of the points – how often should you give your dog a bath?

This is a very common question and has no definitive answer. You should wash your dog as often as needed. For some breeds who love diving in the sea, mud and undergrowth, this could be whenever they get dirty. Others are fine with weekly baths and some may need to be immersed in water less often.

The important thing is to use specialist dog shampoos and conditioners that help to protect your pet’s skin as well as their fur appearance and lustre. Then, gently rub them with a towel, to get as much moisture off as possible without creating knots.

The goal is to ensure that you’re not drying your dog’s skin and fur out in a way to leads to numerous issues, including the increased risk of matting.

Even if you stay on top of your dog's fur health, finding professional dog grooming services near you is also highly recommended. Many breeds of dogs need regular trims and professional grooming activities to keep their fur well managed and healthy.