Matting. Every dog owner cringes at the sight of matting in their fury friend, because with it comes pain, frustration, and frequent visits to a groomer — which in real sense doesn’t stop matting from recurring.
To be honest, at some point, I almost completely avoided long, thick-coated dogs because of matting, but, overtime, I struck some serendipitous methods which have helped me take care and even shave a matted dog at home like it’s a piece of cake.
The thing is, grooming and shaving a matted dog is easy when you have the right tools and the technical know-how. In this article, you’ll learn not only how to shave a matted dog, but what causes it, how to prevent it, etc.
Got a few minutes? Read on below.
Before jumping at the idea of shaving your pet, it’s imperative that you know the root cause, because matting, albeit common in long-haired dogs, can happen in any type of dog. So, virtually no dog owner is left out.
So, why does your dog get matted?
First, matting is a natural occurrence in many dogs. Mats form when strands of your dog’s fur wrap around themselves and get tangled; as a result, both live strands and dead strands of fur will get wrapped up, thereby resulting to tightly-wound clumps.
More disturbing is that these clumps can go unnoticed, especially if your dog has double coats. For single-coated dogs, one can easily find them.
Another reason why dogs get matted fur is when they come in contact with water. Are you the type who usually let their dog have swimming sessions or the type who bathes their dog very often?
You should watch out for this, as it’s one of the easiest ways to get your dog matted. A wet fur will become curly and easily wrap around itself; hence, I recommend that you brush the fur out immediately after contact with water.
In addition, matting will happen when your dog’s shedding period inevitably beckons. For most dogs, this is the period when they switch from their winter coat to summer, thus causing shed fur to get clumped up and pelted close to the skin. If left unattended to, this will make brushing or grooming in general difficult, thereby causing your dog excruciating pain.
Lastly, areas with more friction can get matted easily. These are parts of your dog fur that you need to pay close attention to; they are back of the rear legs, the neck area where collar sits, armpit, behind the ears, where harness rests, etc.
You should thread carefully with these areas as they are very sensitive and can spark some sort of resistance from your dog.
Is Matted Hair Painful for Dog?
Imagine someone forcibly pulling a comb through your roughly-tangled hair, how do you feel? An indescribable pain, right? Without asking, anyone should know that’s equally, if not more, how a dog feels when you handle his matted fur.
As a matter of fact, even without touching, there’s a great deal of pain your dog deals with when his fur is matted; this causes it to whimper continually, but it takes a great sense of understanding to decipher that it’s not the craving for Stella & Chewy's Freeze-Dried Dog Food that’s causing the whining.
What exactly is causing the pain, you ask?
To begin with, when your dog’s fur is matted, blood supply will be cut off as a result of the skin being stretched almost unfetteredly beneath; also, blood circulation will become a catch-22 situation.
Altogether, these will cause your dog’s skin to become irritated, and with skin irritation comes pain and continual scratching— which in the end will make a dog’s skin become pinkish in color and ultimately leave sores about.
Mats have tendencies to trap fly larvae such as the Cuterebra close to the skin. With fly larvae trapped in mats, sores precipitated by skin irritation will become exposed to bacteria, and your dog can get infected as a result. This can be very painful, especially if the sores are scattered about the skin.
Mats can form in the surrounding area of your dog’s rear (anus). This is because it is on the rear that your dog sits, thereby squeezing the hair in the area and causing it to wrap around itself.
When this is the case, your dog’s feces will get trapped in the mats, emanating a foul odor that can make even the animal, skunk, go into hiding. This, as well as the hair on the paws, can cause constipation, thereby leading to fecal impaction.
What Dog Breeds Get Matted More Easily?
As pointed out earlier, certain dog breeds are predisposed to matting than others. These are commonly breeds that have double coating. Matting often occurs in the second layer of their coating, thereby hiding the dangers.
For this reason, I advise that you use your hands to thoroughly feel the base of your dog’s fur to ransack for any matting. Focus on areas with more friction as the ones highlighted earlier in this post.
Some of the dog breeds that get tangled easily are:
- Bichon Frises
- Doodles, etc.
- Also dogs with bearded collies, long coats, or rough coat collies will also get matted easily.
Regular grooming is essential for keeping matting at bay for these breeds.
How to Shave a Very Matted Dog
Now, to the cream of the crop of this post, how do you shave a matted dog? The truth is, shaving a dog with matted fur is never a pleasant experience — not for the embattled dog, not for the frustrated owner.
But before you even nurse the idea of shaving at all, have you exhausted all options? The truth is shaving, for some dog’s, can expose them to severe sunburn and even intense skin irritation just right after shaving.
Considering this, what other options can one try before giving shaving a shot? I recommend the following:
1. Brush Out the Mats Using a Conditioning Spray
There are various detangling leave-in conditioning spray in the market, pick one and use with a slicker brush or undercoat rake— whichever is going to work for you and your fury friend.
To employ this method, you need to first evenly spray the detangling conditioner— which will soften the mats— on a damp fur, then gently and thoroughly work on the mats by detangling them with your fingers. This will ease out the mats a bit, after which you can start brushing or combing them. Here’s a tip I got from my veterinarian friend:
“ Hold the base of each mat— the area close to the skin— and brush outward from the sides and from the point you’re holding or the edge of the fur. While doing this, give your dog occasional treats to make him feel relaxed.”
2. Use Cornstarch for the Matted Hair
Make that Cornstarch somewhere in the kitchen useful for something other than thickening a pie filling or making a roux; sprinkle it on your dog’s fur and gently massage to loosen knots. Thereafter, you can use a brush or comb to even out the fur.
Cornstarch is also very useful as a dry shampoo. Simply apply it on the oily areas and brush the grease out when bathing your dog.
Shaving the mat with clippers
If dog is seriously tangled and you’ve exhausted all options, then shaving is inevitable.Personally, I don’t recommend doing this yourself if you’re not well grounded and can’t handle seeing your dog whine with pain. But the thing is that the entire process is easy if you follow the right steps. The following tools are needed
- A clipper
- No. 10 blade
- Comb attachment
Before you begin shaving, you want to ensure your dog isn’t wet, as it can cause your clipper to become blunt and reduce its future usefulness. For this reason, ensure you’re using a clipper suitable for matted hair. If you'd like to get one, I've written a review on the best dog clippers for matted fur here
Without mincing words, the following steps will help you shave your dog’s hair like a professional:
- Spend a moment of euphoria with your dog before the shaving. You can walk him down the road, the next street, and then come back to a nice meal. Don’t make it seem like something serious is imminent and get rid of anything that makes you appear nervous. It’s just a shaving session
- Find someone, particularly one the dog is familiar with, to hold him by the collar if the dog has tendencies to be resistant and jumpy.
- Tighten the no. 10 blade to your clipper and apply a comb attachment of your preferred size, depending on how hairy your dog is.
- Start shaving from the dog’s underarm and under-tail area.
- In order to prevent injury while shaving, hold your clipper with the comb attachment sliding flat against the dog’s skin.
- Proceed with shaving the top area of your dog — from the back of the head, the neck, down to the tail. You can make stops in-between if your dog whimpers. Relax a bit, give him some treats and continue shaving after.
- Shave both sides of the dog and then the legs. Note that a chunk of the coat may give away if your dog is severely matted in these areas.
- You should be close to the skin area now— the belly and inner parts with less hair. Be careful with the clipper and ensure that it’s not overheating, given that the skin area are tender, sensitive, and can get burnt by the clipper.
- After shaving the area with less skin, proceed to the head, where you’ll need to be very careful. To shave the head, use a slicker brush to parry hair away from his eyes, then shave very carefully and make the clipper stay 1” away from the nose, eyes, and ears.
- Lastly, bath the dog and try as much as possible to prevent it from scratching, as this can open up sores
A matted hair does not necessarily mean you should visit a groomer all the time. Knowing how to do the grooming, as well as how to shave a matted dog when necessary, saves you money.
Even more, the bond you share with your dog will grow stronger, as he will be more submissive to you than a groomer during grooming.
While shaving isn’t the best option, it is sometimes necessary when your dog is severely matted. So, to prevent a chronic case of matting, you should make it a habit to groom your dog frequently and make him enjoy it by treating him to a nice meal in return.
All in all, ensure you groom your dog regularly using cornstarch or detangling conditioning spray deliberated on in this article. And if shaving inevitably becomes your only saving grace, ensure you use the best dog clippers for thick coat and matted hair in order to make the experience less painful for your dog.