Matting happens when your animal’s fur becomes tangled or clumped up. The causes range from infrequent brushing, scratching, licking, petting, rough play, swimming, wearing clothing, and improper grooming. Matting can stretch and pinch the skin, so it can be very painful for your pet if left unfixed.
Sometimes matting can be minor and easily remedied, but it can also become a larger problem and cause health concerns. Some animals are prone to matting behind the ears. This can happen from the pet scratching themselves, or from being rubbed by their human friends (behind the ears is often the softest part of our furry pals). This area usually gets large mats that are close to the skin. When hair clumps like this occur, they should only ever be removed with clippers because they are too close to the skin to be cut with scissors. If you have any doubts, always take your pet to a professional groomer to have these shaved off.
Dogs that have long hair on their legs, tails, and bellies can get matted in these areas due to infrequent brushing or their general lifestyle. Light tangles can be brushed out gently using a slicker brush and comb. For thicker or heavier matting, it may be necessary to cut the clumps out. Only use scissors if you are cutting well away from the skin. It is best to be on the safe side and only use clippers to shave the mats. It is still very possible to injure the skin with clippers, so always use caution as well as the proper equipment. Make sure to consult with a professional groomer before attempting to use clippers for the first time.
Matting can happen deep down against the skin in double coated dogs, soft coated dogs, or dogs who swim regularly. If a coat looks like it’s mat free, try to run a comb through it. If you’re not able to, it may be possible to work out some of the matting with a brush or force blow dryer. When using a blow dryer, be sure to use one specifically made for pets. Normal, human blow dryers are too hot for animals! For undercoats that are tangled, there is a good chance that the entire coat may need to be shaved off.
It’s common for cats that have difficulty grooming themselves to become matted. Some cats shed excessively which, if not brushed regularly, can lead to matting as well. Scissors should never be used to cut mats off of a cat. To remedy this, it is possible to comb or shave the matted areas. Many cats are not tolerant of long brushing sessions, so it may be best to do a little at a time, or to get the mats shaved. Some cats or dogs may require sedation in order to shave out heavy or painful matting, or to help them with anxiety. Consult with your veterinarian if you think your pet may require sedation.
The best way to avoid matting is regular brushing. Try to make it a part of your daily or weekly routine. Encourage your pet with a tasty treat and make it a short session. It’s a good idea to brush your pet after swimming, bathing, playing, wearing a sweater or harness, illness, or prolonged inactivity.
Sometimes matting may occur because the animal is licking at an area that is sore. Matting may also cover up a hot spot or injury. If you ever notice anything unusual about your pet’s fur, such as discoloration, foul odor, or moisture, be sure to contact your regular veterinarian for an evaluation.