When matting occurs in a dog’s hair, it’s important to know what to do and what not to do.
Mats are a serious problem and can be detrimental to your dog’s well-being. Many owners do not understand how miserable this condition makes their dog. Often people obtaining a new dog are not aware of how much time and care is required to properly maintain their chosen breed. A dog with mats will chew and dig at itself if the mats are not removed. Mats can become so tight it can tear the dog’s skin and cut off blood circulation to the affected area, with sores, infections, and cuts often resulting from un-maintained coats.
Dog Hair 101
Dogs have 2 types of hair in their coat. First is the guard hair which makes up the top coat and has a coarser structure than the secondary hair. The guard hair helps prevents injuries to the dogs skin, it forms a layer of insulation and determines the coats appearance. The smaller under hairs (secondary hair) provide further insulation and hair softness. Each follicle has one guard hair and up to 15 secondary hairs growing from the same hair follicle. The structure of a dogs coat varies between breeds – smooth-haired terriers and toy poodles have the highest density of follicles, giving them lots of guard hairs and the fewest number of secondary hairs coming from each follicle. German Shepherds, Airedales and Rottweiler’s have only half as many follicles but have twice as many secondary hairs coming from each follicle.
A dog’s hair grows in a 3-phase cycle. Each follicle has a period of rapid growth, followed by slower growth, then a resting phase. For some dogs the first 2 phases last over a year, in dogs that shed a lot these cycles are often as short as a month. These cycles determine the rate at which your dog will shed.
Mats are caused by the tangling of the hair and happen for several reasons. When your dog sheds the dead hair can become tangled in the growing coat. If your dog scratches or bites the skin or hair it becomes wet and tangled. Friction areas such armpits, the neck, and groin are also prone to matting. Tangling occurs in dogs the same way it occurs in our hair. If not thoroughly brushed on a regular basis the hair will tangle after a few days. These mats can be removed with careful brushing and the correct tools and products. However if a mat is left unchecked it will grow much bigger and can go on to result in pelted hair.
Severely matted hair causes a wide range of problems for a dog. It can turn healthy skin to irritated dark pink or red skin, and result in open sores which expose the skin to external matter, it goes without saying how painful and unhealthy this condition is.
Dead hair should be thoroughly removed on a regular basis. While at-home brushing will remove some of the dead hair, brushing alone has its limits. Professional grooming should be done on a regular basis (check out our grooming schedule here to see how often your dog needs to be professionally groomed) to help prevent matting. Your groomer will pay particular attention during the bathing and brush process to the friction areas where mats form and clip your dog’s hair in a style and length to support the prevention of mats.
Sometimes mats can be combed out, but if left too long, it is impossible to remove them without hurting the dog. Trying to brush matted hair can be extremely painful for a dog. Often, shaving the coat is the only option for the comfort and well-being of a severely matted dog. This is a delicate and slow process as a dog with severe matting has sore skin that can be easily cut. This should only be undertaken by an experienced professional, or in extreme cases a veterinarian.
At pooch Dog Spa we will not subject any dog to painful mat removal. If a dog’s hair is pelted the humane thing to do is to carefully clip the dog’s coat taking it back close to the skin to allow the skin to recover and the hair to start a healthy growth cycle supported by a regular grooming program. Preventing and removing hair mats will help maintain a healthy coat and skin in your dog and prevent the unnecessary pain caused by matting.
For more information on mats please feel free to contact the Spa on 01252 216 100