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How can I keep my pet’s hair from knotting?

My pet Lucky is a Shih Tzu. Her hair often tangles up into hairballs on her body. Is there a way to untangle the knots?...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Sep 29th 2005


My pet Lucky is a Shih Tzu. Her hair often tangles up into hairballs on her body. Is there a way to untangle the knots?

Sonny, Angono, Philippines

Long-haired dogs and cats are prone to knotting, also known as matting, of the hair. Mats can be very uncomfortable, and can lead to a number of unwanted behaviors, including aggression (from pain) and pulling out hair.

Mild knots sometimes can be broken down with a sturdy comb. However, if this procedure is painful for your pet, or if the knots are so tight that skin damage may occur from combing, it should not be done.

Severe matting is best dealt with by removing the hair with clippers. Your groomer or veterinarian should do this. Don’t cut your pet’s hair with scissors. Many of my patients have suffered injuries when their owners accidentally cut through skin, rather than hair, with scissors.

Once your pet is free of mats, regular brushing and grooming will help to prevent recurrence. Especially in dogs, oily skin can contribute to matting, so frequent bathing may be in order as well.

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