When your dog is having a bad hair day it doesn’t mean they are embarrassed to be seen outside.

No, it is much more serious that.

If left untreated matted hair on a dog is uncomfortable and even dangerous to your dog’s health.

If you’re seeing signs of matted dog hair then you need to get it under control ASAP before it becomes a condition with serious repercussions.

This guide is going to take you through the entire process so you can nip that matted hair in the bud as soon as you see signs. Once you learn how to get mats out of dog’s hair then you can also prevent it with some additional tips to come later in the article.

Read on to learn all about it!

What causes matted hair?

Your dog is probably very active as most are. This means that his fur is always experiencing some kind of friction. From running around, to rolling on the ground, even by sleeping.

This friction causes a strand of hair to wrap around another, then the snowball effect begins where that small knot gets bigger and the hair is not able to pull away from each other.

As it becomes more tangled, loose hair gets trapped and worked further into the ball. When you aren’t brushing out the loose fur enough, then 

During shedding season it becomes more prevalent and is difficult to prevent even when you are brushing frequently. 

Any dog can end up with matted hair, but breeds with curly or thick coats are especially susceptible. And, if that dog likes to swim a lot then the odds of getting matted hair are even higher.

The most frequent areas of matting occur where there is usually the most friction occurring. This is usually around the collar, under the “armpits” and their rear legs. In fact, there was a case a few years ago where a homeless dog had so much matted hair on his back legs that they had to be amputated.

You may also be unwittingly causing the matted dog hair yourself if you brush him after he’s had a bath. When there is matting already beginning, then it gets wet and you try to brush, you end up causing the mats to get tighter. Not to mention it is very uncomfortable for your pooch to have his fur brushed while it’s wet and starting to tangle.

The dangers of matted dog hair

If you are reading this then it at least means you care enough about your dog to do what is necessary for his comfort and well being, so I doubt that you have entered into dangerous territory.

You’re probably just seeing some light matting and want to know how to get mats out of dog hair.

I’ll get into those tips in a minute, but first I want to give a gentle warning about what can happen if you don’t get that matted hair under control.

Here are some of the reasons you need to remove the matted dog hair from getting too bad.

1 Discomfort

Even before your dog’s matted fur becomes a health problem, there is definitely a certain level of discomfort he is experiencing.

Those mats will eventually start pulling the hair underneath and actually cause your dog considerable pain.

The skin that gets pulled can also end up getting inflamed and cause even more pain.

2 Risk of infection

As that skin gets pulled tighter, lesions can end up forming which are easily infected. Candida is a common infection and yeast also gets trapped in those sores. They can’t get enough air to them so they just keep getting worse since there is no way for them to dry out.

These infections can spread and get into the blood stream depending on how bad they get. 

3 Terrible smell

As these infections fester, they can start to smell really bad. Just giving your dog a bath when they have an infection caused by matted hair will not do anything. At this point your dog needs to see a vet as there will be no way to get rid of the infection.

4 Catches feces

A common spot for matting is around the anus of your dog. These mats can end up trapping feces and urine that can not only cause a terrible smell but can also end up causing infections as well. 

Even if it doesn’t cause an infection right away, it may cause itchiness which will have your dog scratching and biting at the area which in turn can cause sores and infections.

How to prevent matted dog hair

The best medicine is always prevention. In a bit I will go over how to deal with matted dog hair, for now though, here are some ways to prevent the fur from getting matted to begin with.

Regularly brush the coat

You probably are already doing this, but it does need to be done on a schedule to prevent the mats from forming. 

How often you should do this depends on the type of coat and the season. When they shed their coat, like from a winter to a summer coat, for instance, this is especially important. Those loose hairs can get tangled up and that is how a mat forms. Brushing out the coat will remove all that loose hair. Don’t get too hung up on specific advice on how often to do it. Use your best judgment and brush it whenever it seems like the loose hairs are starting to build up.

Make sure you are brushing the entire coat from the top layer down to the skin. If you aren’t getting every layer of the coat then you could actually be causing the mats to form without realizing it.

You could be forcing the loose fur closer to the skin where the density of the coat will start tangling the hair.

Use a detangler for dog hair

One of the best ways to prevent loose hair from tangling and becoming matted in the first place is to use a detangler conditioner like this one from Amazon.com.

A light spray of this conditioner will allow the fur to stay individual when you comb it. The brush will pass through the coat much easier. Static is also kept at bay and will repel the hairs from from each other so they don’t tend to stick together.

Using the right brush in conjunction with the conditioner is also very effective.

If your dog has a double coat then using an undercoat rake is the most effective way to get the conditioner down through the entire coat. You can pick this one up cheap from Amazon.com.

Now, if the coat is a single layer or curly coat then a rotating pin comb like this one from Amazon.com is the ideal choice.

Take off the collar or harness

If you are a guy that works in an office, think about what it feels like to take your tie off at the end of the day. Or if you work on your feet how kicking off the shoes makes you feel so free.

That is how your dog will feel when you remove the harness or collar when you are at home.

It is more comfortable, but it will also prevent hair from bunching up and becoming tangled.

Make regular appointments with the groomer

If you have been struggling with matted hair even when you are brushing often and sticking to a good grooming routine, then you may need a professional.

You may need a professional brush out more frequently than you normally have been.

Doing this will make sure that the fur is being brushed out and the proper technique and products are being used to prevent the matting from occurring.

These sessions are really important if you have a breed with long fur that you want to keep that way. Those mats that are getting frequent may eventually require a short haircut that you can avoid by more frequent trips to the groomer.

How to get mats out of dog hair

There comes a point when you simply have to cut your pet’s fur to remove any mats before they become dangerous. Before that happens, there are some ways to get rid of matted hair. 

Take a look at some of these tips to bring your dog’s coat back from the danger zone.

Isolate the mat

Using the conditioner detangler I linked to earlier, you can spray down the coat with a light mist and then start working your brush through the coat.

Keep working around until you find a knotted mat that doesn’t allow the brush to easily pass through it.

With it coated with a detangler, try to use your fingers to pull it apart before trying to eventually brush it out. If you can at least loosen it then you may be able to brush it out without causing any pain.

You’re going to have a better time getting through it with a slicker brush like this one from Amazon.com. The multitude of tines and the narrowness of them will be able to penetrate and break up the mat better than other types of brushes or combs.

Use small strokes and try to brush the mat in your hand rather than against the skin. You don’t want to risk irritating your pet with an aggressive brush against sensitive skin. 

Use some treats

Giving a reward is never a bad idea for when you are asking your dog for his patience. Your best bet is to give them a treat that takes a few minutes to eat. This way you’ll have a model that isn’t fidgety and looking to get away.

Whatever you give for a treat, you will be associated grooming time with a positive experience. This way you won’t have to convince your pup to get groomed and to sit still during the grooming session.

Cut it out

When brushing is not getting the job done, you may have to cut out the mats. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give him a complete haircut. If you are dealing with a few isolated mats then it is a good idea to just cut them out and see how the coat looks.

With longer coats, chances are that the cut area will blend in with the rest and not look like you hacked out chunks of his hair.

Try to cut as close to the mat as possible and leave as much hair as you can. This will help it blend in well to the rest of the coat.

Once you have it cut out, brush it lightly from the skin out to fluff up the fur around the area that you snipped.

By the way, try to avoid using scissors when doing this. Though there are some good dog grooming scissors out there, I think when cutting matted dog hair it pays to use a good dog clipper.

The reason for this is that the spot where the mat is will likely be sensitive. Trying to cut it out could have your dog jump unexpectedly  which could lead to a serious cut. Using clippers give you far more control and is less likely to cut in case of a sudden movement.

Bath the pup

After the grooming session there is nothing better than giving the coat a good shampoo. Unless there are still mats there.

Go over the coat one last time to make sure that you haven’t missed any spots. The water will cause any light mats to tighten up and become hardened. Then your job is made even more difficult. 

If you are clear to go, then do a regular grooming session to get the coat looking clean and puffed.

When to give up

There is a point when you need to throw in the towel and go to a pro. By pro, I can mean either a groomer or in a worst case scenario, the vet.

When to go to a groomer

If your dog is especially fidgety and you don’t trust yourself to do the job properly, then it is time to make an appointment. Make sure that you are very clear on how difficult the job is and how much matted dog hair they will be dealing with.

Going to a groomer

The thing to look for when you decide you don’t want to cut the mats out yourself is basically how much pain pooch is in. If the mats are causing discomfort that is causing him to not be able to sleep or get comfortable, then this job might be too big to tackle on your own.

Book an appointment and let the pros handle it. They can also give you some advice on how to prevent the mats in the future and what tools will be best to use for your dog’s specific coat.

When to go to a vet

There is a time when your vet needs to take charge of the matted fur situation. In this case, if there is irritated skin, or, worse, sores that are either infected or could get infected. Your vet is needed in this case for a couple of reasons.

An assessment will need to be made on how to proceed and what kind of damage has been done by extreme matting. If your dog has open sores from the mats then this is surely categorized as extreme.

The pup will need to be sedated or even under anesthesia for this to be successful. The pain of cutting the coat will likely be too painful for your dog if no anesthetic is used.

Then there is the issue with the sores. A groomer may not be able to handle that or want to. This is a delicate procedure that will require medical know how and equipment.

Those sores will need treatment and tests must be done to see if there is any blood poisoning present.

This may seem like an extreme example, but it goes to illustrate that matted dog hair is no joke. It is worse than just looking like a stray dog or that you aren’t keeping up with the grooming. There are serious health consequences if it is neglected.

Dealing with hot spot sores

When your dog has gotten sick of the irritated skin under a mat, he will start licking at it to give some semblance of relief. Unfortunately this ends up becoming a sore known as a hot spot scientifically called acute moist dermatitis. This hot spot can easily get infected and cause a lot of problems. If you have just gotten rid of the mats, it’s time to check for these hot spots and deal with them accordingly.

If you’ve brought him to the vet to get the matted fur under control and there were sores, then likely you were given some steroid cream to control the pain and get the infection under control.

If you discovered this yourself after grooming then you can use some antibacterial cream like this one from Amazon.com that will get those sores under control.

Be very careful when bathing him as that sore will likely be very sensitive when exposed to water and shampoo.

Use an antibacterial shampoo that is also gentle on the skin. This one by Strawfield on Amazon.com will take care of an infection from bacteria and yeast and is formulated to be gentle.

If your pup insists on chewing on that area and continue to lick it even after you’ve begun treatment then unfortunately the poor guy is going to need a cone. 

Forget about those hard plastic ones that are uncomfortable and will have your dog miserable. Instead try the Cozy Cone for dogs from Amazon.com that is made with soft material that won’t irritate or annoying your dog. It comes in a variety of sizes so you are sure to find the exact right dimensions for your dog.

Final thoughts

Dogs have it tough in the summer when their coats end up causing them to overheat. It is hard for them to find relief.

This is made even worse when that fur becomes matted. Imagine wearing a sweater on a hot day. That’s bad enough, but now imagine sores and the feeling of your hair being pulled at the same time. That is what it feels like for the poor pooch.

Hopefully with the help of this guide, you can avoid matted hair on a dog to begin with so it doesn’t end up becoming a problem. But, if it does happen then this guide will help you figure out the best way to deal with it.

Of course it is never a bad idea to go to your groomer first to let them evaluate the situation.

I am all for DIY remedies for your pets or for your own grooming. I know how expensive it can be and how busy we all are these days. But, for the sake of your loved one it may be worth it to at least let a professional deal with it and set you up with the knowledge to deal with it yourself if it comes up again.

If you have any questions about matted dog hair or any other grooming problem you are facing then make sure you drop me a line in the box below and I will get back to you ASAP!

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I’m an outdoor enthusiast and have sported a full beard since I was in my early 20’s. Originally, growing a beard was a way to save time when getting ready each day, but I quickly realized that keeping a neatly trimmed beard takes work and some forethought. That’s where this site comes in.

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