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Does Matted Hair Hurt Dogs [& How to Get Rid of it]

Matted hair hurts your dog and can cause several health issues. It also makes it much more painful when brushing the fur. Matted hair is difficult to resolve once it occurs, so prevention is key to help your dog stay clean, comfortable, and tangle-free.

Matted hair occurs when your dog’s coat becomes tangled into a large clump. This clump is often flat and square or rectangular–resembling a mat. Mats may not seem like a big deal, as they just look like messy hair, but they are painful to dogs, even in mild stages.

Where Do Mats Typically Happen?

Mats typically occur at the base of the hair, closest to where it grows out of your dog’s skin. This is why it’s difficult to notice matting before it happens, especially if your dog has a long coat.

Mats often occur in high friction areas that have long hair. For example, on an English Springer Spaniel or Golden Retriever, you may find that the longer hair on the chest becomes matted. Mats are found in the dog’s armpits, below the collar, or between the legs–anywhere the dog’s hair rubs against itself. They can also occur on the abdomen, where your dog is frequently lying down.

What Dogs Get Matted Hair

Long or Curly Haired Dogs

Dogs are more prone to matted hair based on their breed or coat type. Matted hair is common in breeds with longer hair or curly coats – like Springer Spaniels, Yorkshire Terriers, and Shih Tzus. Curly-haired breeds, like poodles or any doodle mix, are also prone to matted hair because the curls can easily become stuck together.

Double Coated Dogs

Double coated dogs–like huskies, Australian Shepherds, or Golden Retrievers–are prone to mats, especially during their shedding season. These dogs will “blow their coat” at least once per year, typically in springtime. Your dog is getting rid of their winter coat to stay cooler in the summer months. This is a likely time for your dog’s coat to get matted if their old coat is not brushed through, as the old fur can become tangled with the new fur.

Why Matted Hair Hurts Your Dog

Painful for Pups

While matted hair may not appear to be anything worse than visually unappealing, it is painful and harmful to your dog. The matted hair itself pulls at the dog’s skin, which causes your dog to be in pain every time they try to sit or lay down on the affected area.

Irritation, Infection, and Aggression

Matted hair prevents oxygen from getting to your dog’s skin. This skin can become unhealthy and irritated, often leading to sores. The sores are not able to heal because they are not exposed to fresh air and stimulation.

The longer the sores are unable to heal, the greater the risk of infection. Pets often lick to relieve the pain from matted hair, but the constant licking creates a wet environment which can create a bacteria infection. The infection will spread as they continue to relieve their pain through licking.

Matted hair also creates a hotbed for many creepy crawlers to live on your dog. The matted hair holds onto germs, bacteria, fleas, mites, ticks, or burrs. Because the hair is tangled together, anything that gets stuck there stays there.

Matted hair might be invisible to you, but the pain is not invisible to your dog. Mats can cause aggression in a friendly dog, as they are in pain every time you pet them.

They may lash out or growl at you as a way of communicating something is wrong. These are all extreme scenarios that can develop if your pet’s coat is severely neglected, but they are not impossible. Matted hair is painful but easily prevented.

What to Do If Your Dog Has Matted Hair

Mild mats can be dealt with at home if you have the right tools and a patient pup. You’ll need a special tool to help work the mats out of your dog; a regular brush won’t work.

Choose the Right Tool

One popular choice is the GoPets Dematting Comb and Rake. This tool has two sides, both with rounded teeth, to prevent snagging or pulling on the skin.

One side has 12 wide spaced teeth for getting mats brushed out, and the other side has 23 teeth closer together to brush your pet when you are finished. This side will help detangle your pet’s hair and remove any dead.

Another choice is the Rubold Dematting Tool. Similar to the GoPets tool in design, the Rubold has a side with nine teeth for removing stubborn mats and a side with 17 teeth for de-shedding of the regular hair. Customers love this tool’s affordable price and how smoothly it worked on their medium to large size dogs.

Attempt to Work Through the Mats

After you choose a tool that is best for your pet, have your dog calm and settled. Start by an area where the mats are and gently pull the mat away from the skin. If your dog yelps in pain or otherwise tries to get away from you, do not continue trying to brush them.

If your dog allows, start gently brushing out the mat, beginning with the end of the hair that is furthest away from the skin. Carefully work your way up towards the mat, detangling the hairs as you go. You may need to use a detangling spray or conditioner to loosen the hair. Keep your pup calm throughout this experience and remember that they are likely very uncomfortable.

If you are having difficulty trying to remove your dog’s mats at home, call your groomer. They are skilled in either clipping the mats out or giving your dog the full haircut they need.

How You Can Prevent Mats

The best way to treat matted hair on your dog is to prevent it. If you have a dog with long, silky, or curly hair, pay close attention to the areas that are likely to become matted (discussed above), and keep up with their regular grooming.

Regular Brushing

Brush your dog as often as you need to so their fur stays tangle-free. Consult with your groomer to find a tool that works best for your dog’s coat.

One common choice for brushing dogs is a slicker brush. Slicker brushes are rectangular brushes with small bristles that are very close together. These brushes untangle long hair and get rid of knots, loose hair, or debris. The wire teeth can be painful to your dog if you apply too much pressure. Be sure to go gently, stay in small sections, and don’t press hard on your dog’s skin.

You can also use a bristle brush, which is suitable for dogs with any type of coat or any length of hair. This brush differs from the slicker brush because the bristles are made from stiff strands.

It is especially good for dogs with short coats, as the bristles are not painful to their skin. A bristle brush will leave your dog’s coat shiny and free of debris. Like a slicker brush, work gently in small sections and avoid putting too much pressure on the skin.

For dogs who shed often, especially during their shedding season, many people swear by a FURminator brush. This company makes brushes specifically designed to prevent and reduce shedding. Their de-shedding tool removes your dog’s undercoat and loose hair without damaging the topcoat. It can be an expensive choice, but many customers find this tool extremely effective.

Develop a Schedule

Depending on your dog’s coat, they may need you to brush them daily or weekly. If your dog requires daily maintenance, switch up brushes you use to prevent irritation of your dog’s skin. If you have a dog with a coat that requires significant maintenance, work with your groomer to develop a regular routine.

If you have a dog with long hair, keep it at a manageable length. it’s more difficult to notice matted hair if your dog has a long coat, as the mats hide close to the skin. Keep up with regular grooming and haircuts for your dog to ensure their coat stays tangle-free.

Matted hair is a painful and uncomfortable experience for your dog. This situation is completely preventable with regular brushing and grooming–your dog and groomer will thank you!

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