Almost daily, we encounter pet dogs and cats that have mats ranging from mild to severe in grooming. Mats pull tightly on pets' skin, causing them constant discomfort and sometime suffering. But even more serious is the fact that air cannot circulate through the hair and skin, which can lead to major skin irritations and infections.
What causes Mats?
Mats often occur in areas of friction, such as under the collar, behind the ears, in the armpits, or on the lower legs where the legs rub together or where the dog comes into contact with grass. Dogs that sit a lot, or are petted a lot in certain areas will get mats from the fur being compacted in that spot. Neglect, lack of grooming and bathing without brushing the coat through can also cause tangles and knots.
Preventing Hair Mats
The best way to deal with mats is to not let your dog get them in the first place!
Regular brushing is the key to maintain a mat-free coat. When brushing, mist the hair with a little moisture to help minimize static electricity and dryness, which can also cause tangles and mats. Use slicker brushes with wire pins and ensure to brush in the direction of hair growth, parallel to the skin.
- Brush a small section of hair at a time. Push the coat up with your hand to the line of the skin, pat the brush into the hair, and pull away from the dog’s body gently.
- Continue with this method of lifting, patting and gently stroking the brush through the coat a small section at a time. This method allows you to thoroughly brush the coat and find any tangles hidden under the top of the coat.
- Depending on the breed, you will want to brush your dog anywhere from once every couple of weeks to daily.
Please ensure your pet's coat is thoroughly brushed out prior to being bathed! Often we see pets with terrible mats are the results of being bathed frequently at home without proper brushing before and after their baths.
When to give up brushing
The process of removing mats can be laborious, and your pet can put up with only so much. When the mats are severe or if the pet cannot tolerate being dematted for a long period of time, humanity must be chosen before vanity to simply trim all the hair off, often referred to as a smoothie shave. Smoothie grooms are often very time consuming as the groomer must use extreme caution while removing the tightly matted coat. It is incredibly difficult and delicate work to release the mats, inch by inch, from the hairy prison that surrounds the pets. Sometimes, as these thick mats are removed, we will often encounter skin infections, foreign objects, fleas and other parasites hiding underneath the mess. Some pets' skin can become so unhealthy under all the matting that immediate medical attention may be required.
After a Smoothie
If you opt for a smoothie shave for your pet, he/she will feel very different after his/her haircut. After finally being free of the matting, your pet may feel very itchy or his/her skin may have become irritated from the matting and shaving process. Your pet may be inclined to rub and scratch itself, especially on areas that used to be very hairy, but be mindful that his/her freshly clipped nails may be sharp and could cause further irritations on his/her tender skin. You may apply some coconut oil, first aid gel or soothing cream to relief your pet of any skin irritations.
Giving your pet a smoothie shave can also be traumatizing for your pet as they no longer have the coat of armour on and can suddenly feel very insecure and afraid. Your pet may hide in various places, be more shy and submissive, or appear to be very uncomfortable. You can help your pet overcome this by putting on some form of clothing around his/her body (e.g., anxiety wrap) to keep them feel more at ease and by bringing your pet out of hiding to build self confidence with positive rewards.
Now that your pet has been shaved down, don't forget to maintain your pet's hair daily at home and establish a regular schedule for his/her future grooms! If you own a groomable dog (one that requires a haircut or your pet won't be able to see), he/she needs to be groomed every 4 to 5 weeks. If you own a natural dog (one that requires deshed treatments to remove shedding coat), he/she needs to be groomed every 6 to 10 weeks, depending on the breed. Don't hesitate to ask your groomer on your pet's recall frequency for grooming so you don't miss it. Together, you can ensure that your pet is cared for properly and his/her hair will never get into such poor condition again.