Ah, the bane of every Doodle parents’ existence – matted dog hair. How dare these adorable creatures find their way into our hearts, only to make us constantly suffer the wrath…of their HAIR? Doodle owners know all too well that keeping these guys looking like teddy bears comes with a price…and it ain’t cheap.
Luckily, this isn’t one of those “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it”-type scenarios. In this article, we’re going to cover all things “matted dog hair”. We want new and seasoned Doodle parents alike to go in armed and ready to fight, and to learn how to keep the tangles and mats at bay for good. Trust us – you and your groomer will thank you.
Table of Contents
- What is Matted Hair?
- Why Does Dog Hair Get Matted?
- Risks of Not Taking Care of Matted Dog Hair
- Things You’ll Need to Remove Matted Dog Hair
- How to Remove Matted Dog Hair
- Other FAQs on Treating Mats
- Matted Dog Hair Prevention
What is Matted Hair?
Matted hair occurs when a large clump of a dog’s hair becomes tangled and knotted around itself. A mat is different from a surface-level knot or tangle in that it commonly involves the hair going all the way down to the skin.
Mats occur frequently in dog breeds with curly, fine, or double coats. As such, Doodles are especially prone to matting.
Regardless of a mat’s size, they are almost always noticeable to the touch. You’ll be petting your pup, running your fingers through their beautiful coat (just minding your own business), when suddenly a finger will get hooked into a hair ball. And no matter how hard to try to pull the hair ball apart, it just won’t budge.
You can typically see the larger ones because they tend to create parts in the hair, with an obvious clump of tangled hair in between. But oftentimes, these immovable clumps of hair are embedded somewhere within the coat, and are typically left unseen until they can no longer be easily managed and removed.
Why Does Dog Hair Get Matted?
Matted dog hair usually starts out with just a couple of strands of hair becoming knotted due to shedding or friction of some sort. The friction could be from rough play, or being pet or scratched in a specific area frequently. Water also contributes to matting and acts as a sponge, making hair mats tighter.
Once there’s a small knot in the hair, a snowball effect happens where more friction in that area creates a bigger and worse knot, which eventually turns into a full-on mat.
This snowball effect is exactly why proper and frequent brushing is essential if you have a Doodle. As Doodles are already prone to matting, a lack of proper coat care and brushing will only exacerbate the issue. At that point, you get a severely matted dog – or worse, a completely pelted dog.
What Does Severely Matted Dog Hair Look Like?
This is what a severely matted dog looks like…
This is a matted goldendoodle who was very obviously neglected in terms of coat care. If you look closely, you can see the flea infestation within the pelted hair.
If you dare, you can see more pictures of this matted Goldendoodle here.
Risks of Not Taking Care of Matted Dog Hair
While matted dog hair is unsightly and unpleasant to the touch, there are some actual physical risks of not taking care of matted dog hair, as well.
Does Matted Hair Hurt Dogs?
Wondering “Does matted hair hurt dogs?”
The simple answer is yes, it does.
Imagine for a second if YOU had something like in the above pictures on your own head. Imagine a tightly wound knot of your own hair, pulling tightly at an entire area of your scalp, all day, everyday. And no matter how much you scratch it or try and relieve the irritation and pain, it just won’t go away.
Take that feeling of discomfort and apply It to your Doodle…except imagine now that your Doodle feels this ALL OVER HIS BODY.
Health and Medical Problems From Matted Dog Hair
Not only are hair mats super uncomfortable for dogs, tight matted dog hair can cause various and severe health and medical issues. According to ASPCA Veterinarian Dr. Julie Horton:
- Even very mild hair mats can cause skin irritation, bruising, and progress to acute moist dermatitis (“hot spots”) or infected lesions. A wound that is left unattended can accumulate maggots.
- As we saw in the pictures above, parasites like fleas and ticks can infest a dog by living deep in the hair mat and out of the owner’s sight.
- Mats around the anus can cause an accumulation of feces, and in severe cases, impede defecation.
- More severe hair mats can cause strangulating wounds, which are most often seen on an animal’s limb. This happens when a mat grows completely around the leg, causing blood supply to be cut off. In severe but reversible cases, the mat can cut into the skin, which can be surgically and medically treated over weeks to months. In severe but irreversible cases, the mat can cut down to the bone and become so tight that blood supply is cut off on that limb, requiring amputation.
Is a Matted Dog Abuse?
Now, it’s clear that matted dog hair can cause discomfort and health issues. However, at what point is a matted dog abuse?
Like most Doodle owners, I’m sure you are doing your best at proper coat care. Even if you’re not brushing every day, any amount of coat care means that you are at least cognizant of your Doodle’s special grooming requirements. If your Doodle has some matting, but you are aware of it and actively working to demat and prevent future mats – that’s not abuse.
It’s abuse when a dog is clearly suffering from matting and no action is taken on the owner’s part. It’s abuse when the dog is clearly suffering from matting but the owner insists on keeping the hair long “at all costs”. There’s this concept of humanity over vanity, which you can read more about here.
Things You’ll Need to Remove Matted Dog Hair
The absolute best tools you can use to remove matted dog hair are a high quality slicker brush and a metal greyhound comb. Using these two tools together can detangle and allows for proper line brushing of your Doodle.
Check out the following articles to learn which brushes and combs groomers most recommend for Doodles.
Best Tools for Detangling and Dematting
Line brushing is the preferred method to get matted hair off a dog without cutting it. Small knots and mild mats can be brushed out using a brush that’s appropriate for the dog’s coat type. Check out this video tutorial to learn how to line brush your Doodle.
If you can’t brush out ALL the mats within 15 minutes, it’s better for everyone for your Doodle to be shaved.
Cornstarch for Matted Dog Hair Remedy
A secret trick that groomers swear by is using cornstarch to detangle mats. Simply take some dry cornstarch, apply some to a dry mat, then use your brushes to brush it out.
Dog Detangling Spray and Leave-In Conditioners
There are a variety of dog detangling spray and leave-in conditioner products on the market that groomers and Doodle owners swear by. Spray/apply these onto the dog’s coat while brushing. Here are some recommendations.
For Daily Use
You will want a dog detangling spray that doesn’t have silicone in it to use as a daily moistener when brushing, as you shouldn’t brush dry hair by itself. You don’t need a lot of spray, just a light mist.
Here are some highly-rated silicone-free dog detangling sprays.
Best Silicone-Free Detangler Sprays
For More Serious Tangles and Mats
The heavier, silicone-based products works great for dealing with the occasional, more serious tangle. It’s helpful to have something a bit more substantial on hand for the odd trouble spot, but you don’t want to use it daily as it will build up and leave a residue.
Here are some highly recommended heavy duty dog detangling sprays and products.
Best Heavy Duty Detangler Sprays
Best Dog Dematting Tool…?
For mats that are more than mild and can’t be easily brushed out, you may have heard that you can use dematting tools to remove mats. These are tools that slice through mats, and are theoretically fine to use if the matted dog hair isn’t severe.
While effective, please keep in mind that dematting tools can cause damage similar to split ends on humans. This can actually contribute to even worse hair matting. They are also highly dangerous as they are super sharp and can easily cut you or your dog. The last thing you want is a relatively harmless issue to turn into an Emergency Room visit for either of you.
Moreover, professional groomers do not regularly use dematting tools and openly recommend against them.
So…the best dog dematting tool is actually no dematting tool at all. But if you really insist, use one at your own risk.
Here are some highly-rated dematting tools available on the market.
Best Tools for Dematting
How to Remove Matted Dog Hair
To start, have your slicker brush and metal comb, and a detangler product or cornstarch ready to rumble.
If using a detangler spray, spray a bit directly onto the mat. Take care not to soak or drench the mat, as wetness can make matting tighter and more difficult to comb out. If using cornstarch, take a large pinch and sprinkle or rub some into the mat. Make sure that the cornstarch and mat are both dry.
Pinch the base of the mat tightly while you work on it to avoid excess painful pulling of your Doodle’s skin.
Use your slicker brush to brush out the mat, starting at the tips of the hair and working your way up to the root as the mat loosens and detangles.
Use more product or cornstarch when needed, and just keep brushing it out until it brushes through smooth and with no snagging.
- Use a metal comb and try to get close to the skin. If you can get a space between the matt and your Doodle’s skin, use the metal comb as a barrier, and then cut the mat sitting on top of the comb. That way you can’t cut your dog’s skin.
- Use extra caution if you have a wiggly pup.
Dematting is very risky if you’re not properly trained. If the mats are to the skin or widespread, it is better for the dog’s safety to be shaved by a pro.
Other FAQs on Treating Mats
Can you get knots out of YOUR hair painlessly? 99% of the time, you feel at least some discomfort, right? Why expect otherwise when it comes to dogs? To answer this question in two words: you can’t.
There is essentially zero logic in believing that severely matted hair can be saved. As such, the only realistic way to untangle a severely matted dog is to shave it all off. Visit a groomer or veterinarian as soon as possible, where your Doodle can be safely clipped to get instant relief – and treatment if related health issues are discovered.
As seen in the forum conversations above, the groomers recommend shaving a matted dog if he is beyond what can be detangled with a slicker brush within 15 minutes. Now, shaving down your dog doesn’t always mean to the skin. For instance, the groomer could use a 3/4” blade, as long as the blade is able to cut under the matting.
Matted Dog Hair Prevention
Assuming you have already taken action and removed all the mats from your Doodle, the number one tip on matted dog hair prevention:
- Brush daily.
- Brush daily!
- Brush daily!!!
We really can’t emphasize this enough.
Also, NEVER bathe your Doodle if he has mats. Water contributes to matting and makes hair mats tighter. In fact, generally speaking it is a great idea to brush your Doodle out completely before AND after bathing him.
Learn How to!
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The information on this page is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional groomer advice. Always seek the advice of your groomer, veterinarian, or other qualified animal health provider with any questions you may have.