Why Severely Matted Hair Needs Professional Attention

Some dog grooming can be done at home, but the most extreme hair mats need professional help.

Heather Marcoux  |  Oct 21st 2014


If you know a dog with a soft and long, shaggy or curly coat, then you probably know the feeling of running your fingers through your friend’s fur only to discover a nasty bit of tangled, unpartable hair — a mat. These stubborn clumps of hair range in severity from just unsightly to downright dangerous.

My mom’s senior dog, Rags, is a mop-like creature of unidentifiable lineage, and although she was named because of her high-maintenance hair, I think she is loved in spite of it.

Mats are an unfortunate reality for Rags and many other dogs and their owners, and while some can be dealt with without a trip to the groomers, others are more serious.

According to Jenn Shaw, owner of Tall Tails Grooming in Red Deer, Alberta, dogs can develop three different kinds of mats. Two of them can be dealt with in DIY fashion, but the third kind is best left to the pros.

The first type of mat is really just a bunch of dead hair that needs to be loosened up and brushed out. The second type, the dreadlock-like kind, can be snipped out fairly easily. “I would recommend placing a comb between the skin and end of the knot and trimming on the knot side to prevent accidentally cutting the skin,” says Shaw.

The third and worst kind of matting is severe matting, which according to Shaw, forms a sheet similar to a sheep pelt that covers large areas of flat skin.

These severe mats can wrap tightly around legs, tails, and ears. Removing this kind of mat at home is extremely risky as thinner skin can get pulled up into the mats when the dog moves. Tackling this kind of mat can result in accidentally cutting your dog’s delicate skin.

“Many owners are embarrassed to bring their severely matted dog in to a professional for a groom, but I would much rather be responsible for safely removing mats than later having to deal with a terrified dog who has been badly cut at home due to inexperienced de-matting,” says Shaw. “Better late than never!”

She says that while an owner may have to sign a waiver recognizing the increased risks associated with this type of groom, it’s much safer than taking the mat into your own hands.

As a professional groomer, Shaw doesn’t discourage some forms of DIY grooming, including doggie haircuts and shampoo sessions, but she says these severe mats are a different story. “I can never condone trying to remove severe matting at home yourself,” she says.

“Professional groomers have the tools and experience necessary for clipping this type of matting without harming your dog, but there may still be a risk of skin discomfort due to limited blood flow or hidden skin conditions underneath the matting.”

Of course it’s best to avoid matting all together by brushing out your dog’s dead hair before and after your furry friend gets wet, but for some dogs, like Rags, tangles are still going to happen and are best dealt with on the grooming table.

About the author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but Specter the kitten and GhostBuster the dog make her fur family complete. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google +