All you need to know about matting
How to identify matting
The easiest way to identify matting is by using your hands to feel the coat and a comb. Use the comb to comb the fur and to seperate the fur down to the skin. You should be able to easily seperate the hair on every part of the animal, see the skin and comb the fur. It may be harder to comb or seperate if the fur is dirty or oily. Matting feels like solid lumps of fur, very close to the skin that cannot be separated.
How does a matt form?
Matting is the result of wet hair not being thoroughly combed through, foreign matter getting caught in the coat, your pet licking or scratching the area, friction from sleeping positions or general movement, shedding that becomes compacted or a lack of cleanliness and regular brushing/ combing.
Consequences of matting
The consequences of matting can be quite severe. Ranging from minor bruising and ear infections to flea infestations resulting in anaemia or circulation being cut off to extremities. Your pets well-being is directly impacted by their coat condition. You wouldn’t let your child’s hair become a solid matt full of lice or eat when your beard is full of your eye boogers, last weeks food, dried saliva and bacteria. Matting can also hide lumps, injuries, moles/ warts, over grown nails, burst anal glands, ticks and a million other things that need to be checked by a vet. Regular grooming ensures that someone is seeing every part of your dogs coat and noticing the little changes that you may not see day to day. I can’t count how many times I’ve pointed out to owners that there is something on their pet that they didn’t see, that needed vet attention.
Matting can happen very quickly and for a variety of reasons. I myself have experienced matting in 1 of my own cats. It turns out humidity makes my cat matt up within a week. Add into that my lack of knowledge about my individual cats needs and my busy life with 2 young kids and you get a cat with a big matt on his back who needs to be shaved. So lesson learnt. He needs more coat care during humid weather. Each pet has different care needs and they should be discussed with your groomer so you can care for you pet in the best way.
Regardless of the reason your pet is matted, they still need professional grooming. It is very dangerous to attempt to remove the matting yourself. You risk cutting your pet and then needing vet care, traumatising your pet by causing them fear or pain from removing the matting and you may lack the skills to identify any ailments that have resulted from the matting that need vet care. Not only do I have the experience and equipment necessary for removing the matting, but I have the knowledge to identify your pets health and coat condition and insurance for accidents. And accidents during matt removal are very likely due to the mystery of what lies beneath the matting.
Difference between knots, matts and pelts
Knots are the easiest to identify. They are pretty straight forward, the same you would get in your hair. Hair knotting together, usually a little further away from the skin, in small clumps. Most commonly found behind the ears, on the tail or areas that get dirty on your dog. Knots can be removed easily from the dog and do not usually leave any bruising.
Because matting is a large, tight knot close to the skin, they can cause bruising and bacteria growth resulting in skin infections, ear infections or affect their ability to toilet properly. You cannot see the skin under matting and touching the area may cause your pet pain. Matting should only ever be removed by shaving, cleaning and drying the area to promote hygiene and healing.
Pelting is the result of matting being left for a significant time, causing the matting to join together and form a solid ‘suit’ of matted fur on the animal. Often times pelting results in severe skin, eye, ear and toileting issues, similar to the ones listed above but so bad that they require immediate vet care. It is extremely important for the well-being of your pet, that they never reach this stage of coat condition. While no judgment is made by me when grooming a pelted animal, I want to share my knowledge so that you too are well informed on your pets well-being.
A general rule of thumb is that if it’s been more than 6 weeks since the last groom and they are visibly dirty or smelly, they have any knots or matts or you can’t easily comb your pet, then they are due for a groom. All knots, matts and pelts hold a significant amount of bacteria and should be removed as soon as possible, not only for your pets health but for yours too.
How to comb and brush your pet
Many pet owners are told they need to brush their dog often, but how often? That depends on your life and free time and your pet. How dirty they get, how much combing they put up with, how long their coat is, whether they are shedding or not and how long it’s been since their last groom. I would recommend doing it as often as you possibly can. Even if you do it ‘too often’, you’ll still be avoiding knots or catching them early enough to painlessly remove them.
All coats and skin produce oil, dead skin cells and bacteria. Pets also collect bacteria and foreign matter from eating, drinking, exploring their surroundings, toileting and licking themselves. All this combined with shedding coats or long hair make the perfect conditions for knots. Dirty coats are also harder to comb as they have much more friction. Clean, dry hair should be extremely easy to comb through. Brushing is useful for the ears, tail and long coats as the large amount of bristles can get through a lot of coat at once. However, brushes make it harder to identify knots and don’t guarantee that you are combing down to the skin rather than brushing over the top layer of fur. Depending on your pet, you may need to brush first and comb second. A slicker with plastic balls on the tips of the bristles or a pin brush are the best brushes to use to first seperate the hair and a metal comb is the best tool to ensure you have completely removed all knots.
Animals that are shedding may hold onto extra dirt and oil which holds the chunks of undercoat in the coat. A comb is the best tool to remove undercoat as it does not have blades like many tools advertised as deshedding tools. The blades can do considerable damage to the healthy coat if uses improperly and cause the fur to fall out prematurely which seems like excess shedding to owners but is in fact just damaged coat with a shortened life cycle being shed to make way for healthy fur. The best thing for a shedding animal is regular bathing, proper drying and combing.
You should be able to seperate the fur on any part of your pet and immediately see each individual hair and the skin. Curly coats should have visible wave patterns.