5 Best Dog Detangler Sprays for Hair Knots & Matted Fur

These detangling sprays can make it easier to remove knots and mats

Written By: Gemma Johnstone | Last Updated: September 28, 2020

If you have a long-haired dog, it can be challenging to tease out knots and tangles. A detangler spray can make the process less stressful for you and your pet. Here’s our list of the best dog detangler sprays – along with tips for choosing the right option.

A guide to the best dog detangling sprays
Hair knots can be uncomfortable for your dog and difficult to brush out. If allowed to get worse, they can cause pain, harbour dangerous bacteria, and may require a full shave to remove.

Applying a detangler spray can loosen knots and reduce the chance of matting. They aren’t a miracle solution and can’t replace a good brushing session, but can make detangling easier for you and less uncomfortable for your pooch.

By the end of this guide, you’ll know when it’s appropriate to use a detangler spray, what to look for in a good one, and five of the best dog detanglers to choose from.

Our #1 Pick

Tropiclean Tangle Remover

Tropiclean Tangle Remover

Great for loosening knots in your dog's fur

Our top pick for a dog detangler is the Tropical Tangle Remove. It’s alcohol and paraben free, has a pleasant fragrance that isn’t too overpowering, and provides great value. Most importantly, it’s great for loosening knots and mild mats.

What Are Mats and How Do They Develop?

Examples of common mat locations

Long-haired breeds, especially if they are double-coated or non-shedding, are more prone to tangled hair. Over time, these tangles can turn into densely matted fur.

Breeds such as Bearded Collies, Lhasa Apsos, Maltese and Yorkshire Terriers are prime examples, along with curly-coated breeds, like Poodles, Poodle crosses and Bichon Frises.

Even dogs with short hair can get knots in their coat, depending on their grooming regime and lifestyle. If you have a dog that loves the water or exploring the undergrowth, or one that needs to wear a sweater in cold weather, they’re more likely to develop tangles. 

You should also pay attention to areas on the body where tangles are more likely to develop. Examples include around the collar, behind the ears, between the pads, and in the armpits.

If you don’t deal with tangles when they arise, they can twist into uncomfortable matting. This is something owners often overlook, but can lead to a variety of problems:

  • Discomfort. Not only are mats difficult to brush out, but they can pull on your dog’s skin. This can cause pain, mobility issues, and make your dog feel miserable.
  • Gather dirt and bacteria. Mats are havens for unhygienic moisture, dirt and bacteria. Faeces and urine can also become trapped close to the skin. This results in bad smells and an increased risk of skin infections, especially if a tight mat pulls and breaks the skin.
  • Circulation and skin issues. In severe cases, matted hair can pull so tightly on the skin that it restricts blood flow and causes bruising, open wounds and circulation problems. 
  • Full shaving requirement. If your dog has severe matting across their body, the only solution might be a complete shave. This isn’t ideal in cold weather conditions, or if your dog has an undercoat that can lose its insulating properties. Shaving can also be stressful for your dog and sometimes even requires sedation.
  • Can disguise pests and injuries. A matted coat can make it difficult to spot parasites like fleas, which embed themselves inside or underneath the matting. It can also make it tougher to detect if your dog has an injury or irritation in the matted area.
  • Hematomas. If heavy matting around the ear is removed, the sudden rush of blood back to the delicate tip of the ear can cause a rupture. This is known as an Aural Hematoma.

The best detangling sprays aren’t a solution to matting on their own – but they can make coat management less difficult.

What is a Detangling Spray?

Detangling sprays soften and lubricate your dog’s coat, making it easier to brush. They also loosen knots and help to prevent hair breakage. If your pet regularly develops knots that are uncomfortable to untangle, a spray could make removing them much easier.

Sprays can also condition and protect the hair. This keeps the coat in good condition with less static.

Note: Some dogs may benefit from a dematting comb. These have serrated blades to break up tightly woven, stubborn mats – although they need to be used very carefully. I recommend that dematting combs are only used by professional groomers.

Why Sprays Are Only Part of the Solution When Preventing Matted Dog Hair

Detangling sprays are brilliant for lubricating tangles, but they aren’t a complete dog grooming solution.

A regular brushing routine with an effective dog brush is the only way to prevent mats from forming. Detangling sprays just make brushing easier for you and your dog.

Use an appropriate tool, like a slicker brush, to thoroughly brush your dog’s coat out. The frequency will vary, depending on the coat type and lifestyle, but it could be anything from daily to once a week

The intensity of grooming will also vary. Some thick-coated breeds may need to have their coat sectioned out before brushing, to ensure you get right down to the fur closest to the skin. Others only require a gentle brush.

If you’re finding mats frequently, you probably need to brush more often. Unfortunately, if a mat is large or twisted, you might need to hire a groomer to shave or cut it out.

Note: Be aware that using a detangling spray too much without bathing can cause a build-up in your dog’s coat. This can result in the fur becoming lacklustre and greasy looking. Try not to rely too heavily on it. 

What to Look For in a Detangler

Not all detanglers are made equal. It’s important to look for sprays that have safe ingredients, are effective at lubricating tangles, and won’t negatively affect your dog’s coat health.

Steer clear of sprays with harmful or excessive chemical ingredients. In particular, avoid parabens (butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben), harsh alcohols, phthalates and artificial colors, amongst others.

While a strong fragrance may be nice for you, remember your dog has a much more sensitive sense of smell. It’s important not to overpower this vital canine sense! You don’t want a spray that’s too heavy either, as it can leave a greasy residue.

Even products with safe ingredients for dog’s can cause reactions – especially if your dog has sensitive skin. You should test the product on a small spot to ensure it doesn’t cause any irritation, before using it across your dog’s full coat.

5 Best Detangler Sprays for Dogs

To help you choose the right product for your pet, we’ve reviewed five of the best detangler sprays for dogs. All of these options, unlike many on the market, are paraben free.

1. Tropiclean Tangle Remover

Tropiclean Tangle Remover

This is our top pick for a dog detangler spray. It’s paraben and alcohol-free, and contains almost 100% natural ingredients. The Tropiclean is also great for removing mild or moderate knotting.

One of the main ingredients is mallow extract. Along with healing and soothing properties, this is a natural moisturiser and a popular detangling ingredient.

It also contains chamomile extract. This has anti-inflammatory properties, which could help to strengthen your dog’s hair and soothe skin irritation. 

The sweet pea fragrance isn’t too overpowering and, while it’s not a full solution to tangles, this detangler penetrates deeply into mats. As with most detanglers, it works best when applied to a wet coat and then brushed through once the coat has dried out.

I think it’s a bit more diluted than some products, so you may need to use a bit more than normal for it to be effective with heavier matting. We still think it’s the best dog detangler available at the moment though.

2. Lillian Ruff Leave In Conditioner and Detangler Spray

Lillian Ruff

If you’re looking for a product that’s good for both detangling and conditioning, the Lillian Ruff could be an excellent choice. It’s a leave-in conditioner that’s designed to make your dog’s hair super soft and shiny, while making tangles easier to remove.

The Lillian Ruff is an ethical product with a vegan, paraben and sulfate-free solution. It’s also made in the USA. 

One of the main ingredients is Quaternium-22. Although it’s a synthetic ingredient, rather than natural, it’s widely used to increase hair suppleness and sheen, so it works well for conditioning and anti-static purposes.

It also contains castor oil, which acts as a lubricant, making it helpful for working through mats. Castor oil does cling to the hair though, so you may need to bathe your dog more frequently than you would with other leave-in detanglers.

The Lillian Ruff has a baby powder scent, so if you like that “talcum powder” smell, you’ll probably like this dog detangler spray. It’s quite strong straight out of the bottle, but the scent diminishes quickly so it’s not too overpowering.

If you’re looking for an all-natural detangler, you may wish to opt for one of the other products reviewed. The Lillian Ruff doesn’t have as many plant-derived ingredients. It’s great for removing tough knots though.

3. BarkLogic Dogs Leave in Conditioner & Detangling Spray with Essential Oils

Barklogic leav in

The BarkLogic leave-in conditioning spray is made in the USA, has natural ingredients and is also vegan-friendly.

Containing soothing chamomile and yarrow extract, it’s designed to strengthen and hydrate your dog’s hair. 

It also contains calendula oil, which is a popular hair moisturiser and perfect for helping to loosen those tough mats.

The BarkLogic has a lavender scent. This oil can have stress-relieving properties, although that doesn’t necessarily mean all dogs enjoy it.

Because this product contains essential oils (that are safe for use in appropriate quantities around dogs), care needs to be taken if using around other pets. It can also leave the coat a little greasier than some, especially if used heavily and regularly without bathing in-between.

4. Burt’s Bees Natural Detangling Spray

Burt's Bees Natural

Burt’s Bees is another dog detangler with all-natural ingredients. It’s a bonus that the company uses environmentally-friendly recycled bottles – especially if you’re concerned about the environmental impact of dog products.

The Burt’s Bees Detangling Spray contains a naturally derived form of glycerin, which acts as a moisturiser and lubricant for your dog’s hair. This is a popular detangling ingredient, despite it being a water-soluble alcohol.

The honey and linseed oil contained in Burt’s Bees Natural Detangling Spray also act as moisturisers, and can give your dog’s hair additional shine and strength.

Additionally, the lemon oil in this spray helps to absorb excess oils, so you might find it doesn’t leave a heavy residue compared with other sprays. It also provides a fresh citrus scent.

5. Bodhi Dog All Natural Apple Detangling Spray

The Body Dog Apple Detangler is a natural, alcohol-free spray that’s made in the USA. Bodhi Dog focus on the environment and sustainability, so their packing is made with recycled materials and is biodegradable.

Their detangler contains jojoba oil, which has great moisturising properties, making it an effective detangler. The spray also contains aloe vera to soothe irritation.

Unlike a lot of other detangling sprays, it’s suggested that this one is applied after bathing and rinsed out after application. This process probably won’t appeal to those looking for convenience, or who have dogs that don’t like frequent bathing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What About Dog Conditioners?

Dog conditioners can make the coat softer and more lubricated. This helps when brushing out knots. They aren’t explicitly designed for this purpose though, so may not be as effective as a dog detangling spray for heavier mats.

If you find the detangler is leaving your dog with too much of a residue, and your dog doesn’t mind being bathed, a conditioner may be a useful alternative. Conditioners are also great for reducing static, restoring shine, and protecting hair against damage.

To learn more, check out our list of the best conditioners for dogs. You might also be interested in our dog shampoo guide.

Can I Use Human Detangler on a Dog?

It’s always best to stick with products designed specifically for canines.

Human detanglers may contain ingredients that are fine for us, but toxic for our dogs. They are also designed for the naturally more acidic skin of humans. Using them could alter the pH balance of your dog’s skin and cause irritation or dryness.

Summary

Selecting a dog detangler spray with safe and effective ingredients is important. Don’t forget they won’t replace regular brushing though. Even the best detangler isn’t going to prevent your dog needing a trip to the groomer! 

Our top pick is the Tropiclean Tangle Remover. It’s great for helping tease out tangles and can penetrate deep into your dog’s coat. It is not too heavy either, so you’re less likely to experience a greasy residue in your dog’s coat. 

I hope this article has helped you choose the best dog detangler for your pet. If you have any questions, please use the comments form below.

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About The Author: Gemma Johnstone

Gemma is a freelance writer and official dog nut. With 15 years of experience in the pet industry, she is a passionate animal welfare advocate. She has worked for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ran her own specialist dog shop for ten years, has volunteered for her local rescue shelter, and is studying towards completing an Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour. Gemma is currently travelling around Europe with her wonderful rescue dog, Annie.