Dog fur

Photo courtesy of Metro Creative.

Longhaired dogs can be beautiful to behold, but their lustrous locks require more grooming than short-fur breeds.

If tangles are left to their own devices, a condition called matting can occur. Matting is not only a hassle for pet owners, but also uncomfortable for dogs. Understanding matting can help pet owners stay on top of the problem so dogs stay healthy and look their best. 

Unlike other dogs that shed hair that falls out and congregates around the house like fuzzy tumbleweeds, some longhaired breeds shed hair into their undercoats, which can contribute to mats. Poodles, bichon frises and cocker spaniels are prone to matting.

Other breeds, such as Yorkshire terriers and malteses, have single soft coats that tend to tangle quite easily and are susceptible to matting as well.

Mats tend to form underneath the fur and quite close to the skin, and in areas of friction, such as under the collar, behind the ears or on the lower legs. Light daily brushing may not reach the matting. Longhaired breeds often need detailed grooming so mats can be uncovered and addressed early on before they contribute to greater problems.

Grooming experts and vets warn that matting is not just a cosmetic problem. Over time, severe matting can tug endlessly at the skin and deny fresh air and stimulation to areas of the dog’s body. This can lead to rashes or sores. 

Furthermore, mats can harbor bacteria, feces, parasites and dirt, creating an unsanitary situation for the dog, said Melissa Verplank, president of the Paragon School of Pet Grooming. 

Treating matted dog hair requires a few strategies. 

• Prevention is the best solution. Dampening the fur with a detangling spray and using a slick brush every day will help. Separate sections of fur and gently lift and brush away tangles. 

• If mats are already present, retailers offer dematting tools and mat-splitting devices that will gently slice and separate the mat without tugging too much on the pet’s fur and skin.

• Shampoo the dog with a conditioning product to wash away any dirt and debris accumulation in the fur. 

• If matting is extensive, or if it is proving troublesome to handle the task alone, a professional groomer may be needed. If he or she determines that the mats are just too dense to comb out, it may be necessary to use hair clippers to trim away the mats. Groomers have the expertise to delicately cut away mats and avoid nicking the skin.

Dogs prone to matting are those with longer hair that sheds readily. Pet owners can discuss grooming treatments and brushing regimens to keep mats from becoming a headache for all involved.