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How to Deal with Severely Matted Dog Hair: 5 Vet Approved Tips

Written by: Sarah Psaradelis

Last Updated on May 15, 2024 by Dogster Team

severe matting on dog fur

How to Deal with Severely Matted Dog Hair: 5 Vet Approved Tips

VET APPROVED

Dr. Amanda Charles Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Mats are tight knots in dog hair that form unsightly clumps or tangles. It’s usually seen in dog breeds with curly, long, or double coats. Although it might seem like matted hair is a superficial problem for dogs, it can be painful and uncomfortable. They can become dirty and cause skin irritation and usually need to be dealt with by a professional groomer.

Some mats are nearly impossible to remove with brushing alone, so you might consider cutting them instead. However, this could be risky for your dog, and you could end up injuring them. So, how should you go about cutting severely matted dog hair, or what should you do instead?

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Why You Shouldn’t Cut Severely Matted Dog Hair

Cutting severely matted dog hair with scissors could do more harm than good, so it should be avoided. The mats are usually very tight to a dog’s skin, and it is very easy to accidentally injure your dog’s skin underneath the mat, even if you use the correct tools. Severely matted fur that becomes pelted (matted tight to the skin) could even be cutting off blood circulation. Removing pelted dog hair incorrectly is also painful, so it is best left for a professional dog groomer to handle. en en

Hot spots, rashes, skin infections, and abrasions are some of the many issues hiding underneath the mats. The underneath of matted dog hair can also be an ideal environment for fleas, maggots, and other parasites. Further irritating your dog’s skin with sharp scissors and pulling is not the best solution for severe situations.

Dogs with severely matted hair should be taken to a professional groomer or your veterinarian. It is not recommended to deal with the matted hair on your own, even if you feel you know what you’re doing. In some cases, severely matted dogs may need sedation to prevent discomfort and distress while the mats are clipped off.

In most cases, the best solution is to use grooming clippers to shave underneath the mats. The hair will eventually grow back, and your dog will no longer be in pain and discomfort from the mats.

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The 5 Tips for Dealing with Matted Dog Hair

Here are five tips and tricks you can use when dealing with mild matting. The following tips are useful for minor, loose mats that can be worked through with the correct tools and methods.

Severe mats need to be shaved out with clippers, and this is best left to a professional dog groomer or, in some situations, your vet. The shaving process requires plenty of skill and time to protect your dog’s skin and remove the mats without causing too much pain. Any open wounds and skin irritation must be treated by a veterinarian.

1. Choose the Correct Tools

A standard brush does not work for most matted dog hair. You ideally want to use the right tools that work through your dog’s coat to detangle and remove stubborn mats without damaging your dog’s skin. Some great options include a de-matting fur rake, slicker brush, mat breakers, or metal matting combs. You could use a combination of de-matting tools.

brushing matted fur of a black poodle
Image Credit: Focus and Blur, Shutterstock

2. Keep the Matted Hair Dry

Although you might be tempted to wash a matted dog and work through the mats while the hair is wet, this is not a good idea. Matted dog hair can act as a sponge and soak up moisture, making the mats tighter and more difficult to deal with. You generally want to keep the matted hair as dry as possible and avoid using any oils, water, and conditioners for severe cases of matting, as this makes using clippers to cut underneath the mats much more difficult.


3. Hold At the Base

Brushing out matted dog hair can be painful as it pulls on your dog’s skin. That is why you should try and hold the hair gently at the base of the mat to minimize any pulling. This is possible if your dog only has a few minor loose mats in their hair rather than large, tight mats close to the skin. You do not want to yank onto the knots with the brush, as this will hurt your dog and create negative associations with brushing in the future.

matted fur
Image Credit: munalin, Shutterstock

4. Use Cornstarch to Loosen the Mats

Rubbing cornstarch directly onto your dog’s mat may help loosen it. You might find that the de-matting tools glide through the matted hair more easily with cornstarch. Alternatively, you can use wheat or rice flour.


5. Try Canine-Friendly Detangling Sprays

A canine-detangling spray can also be helpful if your dog only has a few minor mats that can be removed with brushing. The detangling spray helps to lubricate the mat and helps the brush glide through it more easily. Again, this should not be used on severely matted dog hair.

Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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Prevention Is Key

When it comes to matted dog hair, prevention is always key. It’s essential to understand your dog’s coat type and grooming requirements, so you know how to maintain it. Severe cases of matted dog hair usually aren’t caused by forgetting to brush your dog for a week or two.

You should try to maintain a proper grooming routine for your dog that works for their breed and coat type. Some dogs need to be trimmed or groomed more often than others and with different tools. Although a standard hairbrush might work for a dog with a short, manageable coat, it might not reach the undercoat of a double-coated dog.

Keep a close eye on areas particularly at risk of matting, such as behind the ears or between the toes, as this allows you to pick up any problems early. Bathing and keeping your dog’s skin healthy are just as important as brushing during grooming sessions.

Our Favorite Products

Selecting the right shampoo and conditioner makes the world of a difference when grooming your pup. Our favorite products are the duo by Hepper. The Oatmeal Pet Shampoo is formulated with aloe and oatmeal to soothe skin and hydrate the coat. The Pet Conditioner works at eliminating tangles and taming frizz and static. Both products are pH-balanced and formulated with pet-friendly ingredients, free of harsh soaps, chemicals, and dyes. Give this duo a try to heal and nourish your dog's coat, and leave them with an irresistible just-left-the-spa cucumber and aloe scent. 

Hepper Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats and Other...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
Hepper Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats and Other...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
pH balanced
Gently cleanses
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harmful additives
Combats tangles & static
Soothes & hydrates
Hepper Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats and Other...
Hepper Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats and Other...
pH balanced
Gently cleanses
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harmful additives
Combats tangles & static
Soothes & hydrates
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
pH balanced
Gently cleanses
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harmful additives
Combats tangles & static
Soothes & hydrates

At Dogster, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool pet company!

 

If you struggle to find the time to groom your dog, you can schedule a grooming appointment with a professional dog groomer.

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Conclusion

It is not recommended to cut severely matted dog hair. There are far too many risks, and it is easy to accidentally cut the skin under the mat and create an open skin wound. Matted fur is unsightly and painful and can lead to skin issues. Therefore, you should take them to a professional dog groomer or seek help from your veterinarian rather than attempting to deal with the mats yourself.

Clipping underneath the mats is usually the safest and most effective solution for severely matted dog hair, but it must be done by a professional.


Featured Image Credit: munalin, Shutterstock

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