Have you ever seen a dog that looks like it’s wearing a clumpy sweater? The wind blows over them but, aside from a few scraggly bits, the hair remains undisturbed. This is because the coat has become so thoroughly tangled that the tats have become mats: thick bunches of hair resembling dreadlocks. They might be isolated to one or two spots, or cover a dog’s entire body. A lot of dog owners think this impenetrable wall of hair will keep Fido warm in the winter.
I’ve been a professional dog groomer for a number of years and I’ve groomed thousands of our four-legged friends. Over time, something has become clear to me: people do not brush their dogs. Winter is an especially bad season for matting, since most pet parents want to keep their dog’s hair long during the cold season.
I know—it doesn’t sound like a serious issue. After all, we already spend so much time and money on vet check-ups and quality food to keep Fido happy and healthy—why should a few mats be a concern?
I want you to imagine that you are wearing a wool sweater that covers your entire body. In the summer it’s taken off and cleaned to keep you light and airy. But, as it gets cooler out, you let it thicken and, as time goes on, it starts to get tighter.
Every time you go out into the snow, roll around on the carpet, or get a belly rub (because who doesn’t enjoy a good belly rub?) the sweater gets thicker and tighter until it starts to pinch your skin. Every time you take a step, the sweater pulls at the skin between your legs and in your armpits. The sweater is too thick to dry completely between romps in the snow, the constant dampness becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and breaks down your skin until you develop sores.
So, yes, matting matters.
The easiest way to prevent mats is to brush and comb Fido regularly. For most dogs, a thorough brushing every week will keep them in good shape. Make sure to take off their collars and coats and don’t forget to brush behind their ears and under their armpits—especially if they wear a harness.
If you find you don’t have the time or energy to brush Fido, make an appointment with your groomer. They should have a bath and brush package that will cover all of your bases, including nail trimming and ear cleaning. Most groomers will also offer a brush-out walk-in service, so you can drop off Fido, go grab a coffee, and come back to a fluffy fur-ball!
However, if Fido does get matted, it’s best to get him shaved as soon as possible. There are small risks involved with shaving a matted dog, such as small nicks, irritation, and the development of hematomas as a result of blood flow being returned to the skin. Your groomer may charge you an extra fee as a result, but it will save Fido the pain and discomfort of being de-matted.
Photo by Clarice Barbato-Dunn via StockPholio
Laura is a copyeditor and designer for On the Danforth summer edition. She spends most of her time with furry friends but enjoys a foray into the real world to cause trouble from time to time. Connect with her via Twitter.