K9 Corner, Oct 10

Published 9:07 am Tuesday, October 10, 2017


A reader asked what she could do about the mats her Lhasa apso is getting on her legs and underbelly. This owner thought that grooming problems would be only in the warmer months when burrs and twigs would get tangled in the fur. I explained that mats are a yearly problem, not a seasonal one; that in the winter, when there is snow, ice balls often form on the feet and legs of long coated breeds and unless the owners melt these down with warm water and comb out the fur as it dries, the dog will lick and chew the ice and snow balls and then try to lick the fur dry.

As the dog works on the legs, the fur is forming mats since the dog’s tongue is not rough like a cat’s and doesn’t have the same “combing” quality. It is important to keep the mats combed out. Mats hold moisture and tend to get larger if they are not removed. Dogs with matted coats will not only be uncomfortable from the constant pulling of the hairs, but will usually end up with skin problems from bacteria or fungus growing in the warm, moist environment. Sometimes the irritation of the hair pulling will make the dog lick sufficiently that the hair is worn off and the irritated skin develops an open sore.

Email newsletter signup

Another reader asked a similar question about how much undercoat you should leave in the winter. She was afraid to comb her German shepherd dog because she thought the animal would need every bit of undercoat. This is not the case. The dog is shedding undercoat throughout the winter and the loose hairs should be combed out with a wide-toothed comb. Many owners of breeds with heavy double coats will teach their dogs to lie quietly on their side while the owner, or groomer, combs the loose hair out.

There is a special procedure to comb out a long-haired dog or a dog with a double coat. If the long-haired dog is lying on its side, start by parting the hair just above the foot and hold it up on the leg as you gently comb out the hair on the foot. Then make another part about an inch or so up the leg, hold the rest of the hair up while you untangle the one inch section and blend it into the hair on the foot. Proceed in one to two inch segments up each leg and under the arm pit and in the groin area. Then comb out the rest of the coat.

Some mats will have to be picked apart with the last tooth on the comb, the larger mats might need to be broken up with thinning shears before being picked apart. Don’t try to cut large mats off unless you don’t mind a dog with “holes” in his coat.

Don’t forget to wash your dog’s feet after taking a walk in wintertime snow where chemicals have been spread to melt the ice. The chemicals will burn the pads and make the dog lick his feet which means he will ingest the chemicals.