Matted coats can quickly become a very serious condition in longhaired dogs and cats. Mats usually begin as small tangled clumps of hair behind the ears, in places where legs meet the body, and around the rear areas. Regular and thorough brushing can keep mats from forming but wet conditions, romps through wild areas, encounters with sticky substances, and other situations can cause mats to develop over a very short span of time, and once matting begins, it can quickly get out of control.
In many pets, especially those with dense undercoats, serious matting can occur without the owner even being aware. The dog may appear normal, petting its coat may feel normal, and you may even be able to brush the dog, but actually you’re only brushing the outer surface hair. If you were to take a comb and attempt to comb into the matted area at skin level, chances are you will not be able to get through it no matter how hard you pull.
Not infrequently, owners bring dogs to the grooming shop and are surprised when told their friend has a badly matted coat that will need to be shaved. [A quick note on the term “shaving”: In grooming circles, shaving means close clipping with an electric clipper, razors are never used for this purpose.] At first, the owner may not believe their dog is matted and the condition will need to be shown to them. They will often ask for the mats to be brushed out instead of shaved. Minor, isolated matting might be brushed or scissored out, but extensive, down-to-the-skin matting is better removed by shaving. The process of brushing out heavy matting could be a long and painful experience for the pet.
Some owners ask for their matted dog to be bathed, dried and given back to them. A dog with a matted coat should never be bathed. Bathing tightens mats, it also permits water to collect between the mats and the skin and no drying process will remove all of this moisture. The area then becomes a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and the pet will likely develop skin sores that will fester and spread. Now, something that could have been corrected at the grooming shop has become a much more costly trip to the vet.
Regular visits to the groomer can keep coats fresh, clean and free of mats. And please remember, if your friend needs a bit of shaving to get rid of those troublesome mats, don’t freak out!!! Pet hair grows back very fast, so your special friend will be back looking like himself in a very short time…and both of you will feel a lot better.