Day in, day out, discussions about dog’s coats and grooming take up a large part of my day. Which brings me to the topic of mats.
Mats are an unfortunate occurrence that happens far too often, and sometimes with tragic consequences. Just like some kid’s hair seems to always get full of tangles, and others never do, some dogs never mat, and others can mat even with daily maintenance.
In the winter, most people think that leaving a dog’s hair long will keep them warmer. While it may be true in some cases, especially if the coat is combed and brushed daily, in most cases it leads to mats, and a matted dog is actually colder in the winter. The mats retain moisture, and the skin is normally damp under the mats. It would be like going outside with a wet sweater on under your winter coat.
Generally, a mat is a collection of live and shed hairs, tangled into knots. They usually occur in areas where the coat is rubbed together a lot, like where the collar sits, or a harness, or a coat. Armpits, ears, haunches are normal areas as well. They can also happen based on how the animal sits or sleeps.
Many people do not even realize that their dog has mats, because the coat that comes through the mat can still be brushed and look normal. But the mat lurks underneath, getting tighter and closer to the skin. When they finally get to the groomer, the mat can be impossible to remove short of shaving the unbathed dog, a process that can be dangerous to the dog, and may damage the blades of the clippers due to the grit in the coat, possibly leading to a blade sharpening surcharge.
More than the cost factors, the removal of mats can reveal issues that may occur under the mats. Depending on how long they have been there and how extensive they are, mats can hide bacterial infections, sores or worse under them. “Doggy smell” is not normal for a dog, and can sometimes be an indication that something bad is happening.
Bathing a dog with mats will usually make them worse, and the mats can make it difficult to rinse properly, trapping shampoo under the mats as well. Plus, they are almost impossible to fully dry when matted, so the wet sweater analogy gets even worse.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If your pet tends to get matted, and you want to keep its coat long, then you need to invest time and elbow grease yourself, or make more frequent grooming appointments.
It is most important to work the coat with an appropriate comb, getting through the coat to the skin. The teeth of a comb can reach further down into the coat and can pinpoint a mat much easier. If the comb finds small mats, they can be gently worked out. Larger mats may need either a conditioner to help them slide out, or need to be cut into smaller pieces so that they can be worked out. Once the comb can go through the entire coat, all the way to the skin, then a brush can be used to make the coat look pretty. Brushing over mats does not help, and can actually make mats worse.
A properly maintained coat can keep a dog very warm in the winter, even if it is short. Take a little extra time in the cold months to make sure our canine companions stay warm and healthy.