This is a term that refers to skin that has been affected in a negative way due to mats (tangles) in the coat. When a tangle is not taken care of, it can become so tight that it causes injury to the skin (usually the top layer of the skin) and it can become infected. The particular area may be swollen (raised) and cause a serious itch. Most Tzu will then lick or chew at the area
to relive the itching and this, of course, will make things worse. The irritated spot will then stay moist (not good) and will increase in size and severity.
Let’s first talk about prevention for this Shih Tzu skin problem. Tangles are a given with this breed. The long coat of hairs will tangle if proper grooming is not done. Grooming should be a scheduled activity…it is much easier for owners and for a Tzu to fall into a routine. Daily grooming is recommended…and this type of grooming will not take very long. If an owner sets aside just 10 to 15 minutes per day to devote to combing, tangles will not form.
This should begin when the Tzu is a puppy…yes, as young as 8 weeks old is a good time to start…it will allow the Tzu to become used to being handles, used to the feeling of the comb…and make for a much more calm adult dog who is comfortable with the grooming process.
It is important to not just focus on areas that you clearly see. The inside of the legs and the underbelly are notorious places for Shih Tzu skin problems of this nature…and therefore, when grooming to keep tangles away, an owner should plan to routinely go over the entire body.
You will want to begin with a wide tooth comb and go very slowly…If you quickly comb over any area and hit a mat, this can be painful for your dog. Therefore, slow go section by section and immediately stop if you find a tangle, no matter how small.
Upon finding one, you will want to coat your hands with a canine leave in conditioner and gently and patiently work it out. This may mean gently pulling each individual hair out of the tangle…so patience is a must. Once done, slowly go over the area again and repeat if necessary until the comb glides easily and freely through the coat.
If you encounter a large tangle, which again will not happen if you do this each and every day, you will want to avoid clipping the coat unless absolutely necessary. Even large tangles can be worked out if both owner and dog have patience. Be sure that your Tzu is comfortable and that you are as well. You may want to play some relaxing music or talk to your dog while you do this to keep both of you distracted…although both of your eyes must be on the task at hand. You may need to reapply the condition to your hands as it slowly transfers onto your Shih Tzu…use enough so that it causes the hairs to become slippery enough so that you can undo the mat.
Take care not to pull at the skin, particularly if there is already a hot spot there.
If, and only if, you find that after 20 minutes or so that the mat is too large for you to undo, only then should you carefully clip it off with an electric trimmer. Remember to not overdo this… Only the tangled hairs should be clipped off and not any other part of the coat…Do not try to “even things up” by repeating the same clip on the other side of your dog….When you give your Shih Tzu a bath, be sure to focus attention on this area and condition it well (do not blow dry it), to promote growth. Now, let’s talk about how to help your dog with the Shih Tzu skin problem of an existing hot spot of dry, irritated skin that was under a mat. If you see extreme redness or any discharge (puss) at all, you will want to have the veterinarian take a look at it…since this will point to an infection that most likely will need to be treated with antibiotics.
If it is not infected, but it is a clear hot spot of skin irritation you will want to carefully trim the hairs around that spot. Then, you will want to gently clean the wound with a mild antiseptic such as witch hazel. Alternatively, tea tree oil that is diluted with bottled water can be used on the area. Any baths should be done with hypo-allergenic canine shampoo and one that has an oatmeal base to help with this skin problem.
Be sure to clip your Tzu’s nails so that they cannot do too much damage if they try to scratch at the itch. If they are licking or biting at the area, it is often helpful to loosely cover it with a breathable gauze wrapping.