Normal, everyday grooming tools can lead to injuries requiring medical attention if you are not careful, and the dog is not always the one to be injured either!
I rarely use dematting tools. Combs and brushes YES but dematting rakes and splitters, NO. They tend to damage coat and cut it badly and if I cannot get it out with a comb and brush I just shave the mats off. I do own them however, for those rare times when they are going to be useful. I DO NOT let my staff use them. They are, IMO too damaging to coats and skin to be used safely by staff that may or may not be as careful as I am using them. If you noticed, by looking at these photos, you can see that the edges on all three types of matsplitters have been sharpened to VERY sharp to slice through mats easily. They can also slice though skin easily and remove parts o ears or tails if not used with extreme care.
I had a Bichon, Lazer, on my table Wednesday of this week and he was a mess. He had no mats on his body (we used a 4F wet to get the hair off him) and yet his tail was matted with three big mats hanging away from the skin. These are candidates for a matsplitter since they are away from the skin, the owners do not get him groomed very often, and as a result, damaged or cut hair will not matter to them (or me for that matter).
So I look for my splitter, knowing full well I bought a new one at the Atlanta Pet Fair and have not used it (mistake number one). I find it in a drawer behind my station and then set out to remove the mats. I used the one with 6 blades that are slightly ridged to accomplish this task. Now, I have to say, at the time I was sitting there, I was showing my apprentice how to demat using this and I said to her "If you are not careful you can, and WILL , cut the dog badly with this because it is really sharp." We talked about how it cuts the mats into smaller segments and that makes them easier to brush out. How starting at the bottom and working your way up is the best way to use them. How you should NEVER pull hard because it will slide fast and cut the dogs tail and how this is not a tool I would use on ears because if the dog turned just right the ear itself would be inside the blades and it could be catastrophic. I had two of the three mats split into smaller ones and brushed out. She could see how it cut the hair, and why I don't recommend using them on all matted dogs because they DO damage coat. She also understood that in this case it was OK and why it was ok.
The last mat was the smallest of them all and I ALMOST shaved it out (mistake number 2 was in not doing that). Instead, I said out loud "I would shave this one out but it's smaller than the other two, so I might as well get it out.
I put the splitter in place and went to draw back on it (you use it like a comb) and the mat fell apart, causing the matsplitter to fly into my little finger, right at the outside edge of the nail. I knew right then and there what had happened and that it was bad. Ashley, my apprentice went running for something to wrap it up in and I headed straight to the bathroom to clean it up. My son stood with the dog, but honestly the dog was not on my list of things to be concerned about at that time.
I knew looking at it that there was nothing to stitch. Luckily I know how to apply a compression bandage and did that. I got the bleeding stopped fairly easily and went back to work. I have been cleaning it daily and using Blister band-aids (they are a gel and seal the wound with cushiony material). It will be fine. It hurts like mad and using a splint over the band-aids helps keep me from banging it hard. Typing is not easy however……I never realized how much I use that finger in everyday activities! The picture above was taken two days after the incident. It is really deep, which the photo fails to show well.
MAN am I glad it didn't slip and get a dog!
Moral of this story is the tools are very helpful, but also VERY DANGEROUS. If using them use caution and only use as needed. Keep your fingers and arms out of the way. NEVER cross a dogs ear or tail with the, and avoid using them in thin areas or on flaps of skin.