We all know that our dog can look a bit scruffy when his coat is matted, but not many of us understand what causes matting and how we can prevent it occuring. Our groomers have written a blog to help customers understand more about mats so that their dog can look his best in between grooms and avoid being shaved off.
What is matting?
A mat is a mass of hair held together by interwoven fibres. There are many types of mats, some easier to remove than others, and some coat types are more prone to matting because each hair shaft has more spurs.
Fine coated breeds like Poodles, Bichons, Cockers and Schnauzers, can get mats and tangles that can become very difficult to brush out. Drop coated breeds like the Shih Tzu, Lhasa and Maltese also suffer with this sort of problem. Combination coats like the Golden Retriever, Australian Shepherd and Collies are subject to tight tangles in longer areas like the rump and behind the ears. While heavy shedding breeds will have ‘clumps’ of matting that can, in most cases, be removed in shedding season with the right tools.
Why does matting occur?
When looked at through a microscope a single hair looks like a single sprig from a briar bush with lots of little thorns, much like human hair which is brushed everyday to prevent tangles and mats. Some coats have lots of barbs, while others are smoother – as a general rule the guard coat has more barbs per centimetre than the undercoat. One reason many mats become so dense is because undercoat grows at a faster pace than guard hairs, causing it to trap and quickly become tightly compacted.
Causes of matting
There are many reasons hair becomes matted, but here are a few main culprits:
- Dirt; this gets caught up in the fur, literally holding it together. If caught quickly this can be easily removed by brushing.
- Static; when hair becomes static it literally causes each strand to hold onto another all over the body. Using a natural topical conditioner on the coat or adding humidity to the dog’s environment can help with this issue.
- Moisture; water is one of the biggest culprits of matting. If a pet is not brushed regularly any type of moisture – bathing, dew, snow, swimming etc – can make matting nearly impossible to get out. Once a tangled coat is allowed to dry without brushing or blow drying it acts like a woolly jumper in a warm wash, the fibres shrink as they dry and become incredibly tight. In these cases it can hurt the dog to comb it through and it’s usually best shaved out.
Friction; a common problem easily solved with regular brushing. Areas to watch are ears, legs, tails and where any harnesses or collars lie. In winter months it is best to squeeze dry feet and legs, rather than rubbing with a towel as the latter will lead to matted paws.
Compression; this usually affects older dogs and less active companions. Most pets, like humans, prefer to rest on a certain side which means that the majority of the matting and knots will be on one side. Knowing that their preferred side will tangle faster means you can concentrate on brushing that side first if your dog is not a fan of being brushed.
What to do with mats
If a mat cannot be easily brushed out at home, it is best left to a groomer. All pets have their own pain threshold, however its normally pretty low, similar to that of a two year old. Most dogs don’t take kindly to de-matting and if they are really uncomfortable then it’s kindest to shave it out. Humanity before vanity, the pet’s comfort is the priority in all cases. If you find yourself reluctant to maintain the coat or are short of time then its best to book in for more regular sessions with your groomer or learn to appreciate your much loved pooch in a comfortable low maintenance trim.
Written by: Ellie Berry and Laura Martin
Photos by: Ellie Berry