Q: My Maltese has a fine, cottony coat that mats easily. She sometimes yelps when I comb through a knot, even if I’m not tugging very hard. I don’t want to cause her unnecessary pain or discomfort, so how do I know which knots to comb through and which ones to snip off? Also, how can I ensure that her coat doesn’t become “choppy” as I cut off the knots?
A: Knots form in your pet’s fur over time, mainly due to inadequate brushing, combing and skin or coat care. They are more commonly found in longer-haired breeds, and as a result of genetics, more so in dogs with light-coloured coats
Knots trap moisture and warmth, making them the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which may lead to skin issues like dermatitis. Hence, the removal of knots is important and necessary.
The challenge of removing knots depends on the severity of the matting; the smaller ones can be easily removed by running a greyhound comb through the fur while holding the base of your pet’s hair to prevent tugging on its skin. For larger, tighter chunks that are close to the skin, it is advisable to shave them away.
To minimise the formation of knots, always do a thorough blow-dry after baths. Do not “air-dry” your dog, as wet fur tends to be clumpier. Also, pay attention to knot-prone areas, like the armpits, elbows, and behind the ears.
Here are three tips to reduce “choppiness” in your pet’s fur during trimming:
1. Use thinning shears
Thinning shears or tooth scissors cut through your pet’s fur without leaving harsh lines. Ensure that there is adequate buffer—around 2cm—between your pet’s skin and the knot before sliding the scissors between and trimming it off.
2. Cut what’s necessary
Locate the knot and remove just that by running a greyhound comb through your pet’s coat; the knot is located right where the comb gets stuck. Using your fingers to pry through your pet’s fur, find the knot and cut only that portion away.
3. Trimming along the hair growth
During trimming, align your scissors along the direction of hair growth—this creates a less “choppy” finish than if you were to trim against the hair growth direction.