If your dog has an area of damp, matted fur that he licks or bites at, chances are he has some type of topical insect bite or irritation that can be easily treated. It's important to address the problem as soon as you become aware of it, because irritated skin that becomes cracked or open can lead to infection. Further, some types of canine skin conditions are chronic and require a vet's treatment.
Lice are tiny parasites that can cause itching and irritation on your dog. You can see the pale-colored insects at the base of your dog’s hair where it meets the skin. Matted, damp fur is a good indication of lice infestation, and since lice can be passed from dog to dog, it’s important to get immediate treatment. According to Purdue University, lice are most effectively treated with a chemical solution available from your vet’s office. The Pet Wave website notes that lime-sulfur, pyrethrins and pyrethroids are common insecticides for treating lice.
Any time your dog suffers a bug bite, such as from a flea, tick or fly, the area can become inflamed, particularly if your pup has an allergy to insect saliva. Your dog’s incessant biting and licking is an attempt to relive the itch, and matted fur can result. Many bug bites can be treated with a vet-prescribed or recommended topical anti-itch cream, and if the area is swollen, your vet may shave the matted fur to better treat the bite or drain an abscess if one forms.
Mange mites can cause different types of skin irritation on your pup. Mites may burrow and cause irritation that is scratched and licked, or damage your dog’s hair follicles, leading to patchy hair loss. This type of skin condition can be difficult to treat and control, so consultation with your vet is essential to getting the problem under control.
If your pup gets scratched or cut, it can lead to infection, which he will lick to soothe the pain or sting. This can cause damp, matted fur. Gently clean the area with a hypo-allergenic dog shampoo to assess what’s underneath. Though a vet should be consulted, many minor skin irritations and slight injuries can be treated with an over-the-counter topical antibiotic cream or gel.
Treatment and Prevention
Once the cause of your dog’s damp, matted fur is diagnosed and treated, clean and disinfect his bedding, both to eliminate pests and reduce the possibility of ongoing irritation or infection. If pests are at the root of your dog’s problem, treat the cause to avoid future issues. For example, have your yard treated with a pet-safe chemical pesticide or use a vet-grade topical flea and tick repellent on your pup.