The Matted Pet Matter
By Kathy Hosler
It happens all too often. A pet comes in to be groomed. And whether it is a Shih Tzu, a Bichon or a Doodle, the story is usually the same.
“Suzie is here for her appointment,” her owner says. “We love her fluffy. Here are some pictures of how I want her to look.”
Well, you place Suzie on the table, put a comb to her, and discover that she is matted. You show it to the owner, and in disbelief she says, “That can’t be. I brush her all the time!”
Your day suddenly becomes more complicated—it seems that you forgot to bring your magic wand to work. She may have brushed the outer portion of the coat, but the hair underneath is like a Brillo pad. And, even when you show the matting to her, she refuses to see it as a problem.
“It’s your job to groom my pet and clip her the way I want,” she says defiantly. “Besides, the breeder said Suzie is supposed to have lots of hair.”
You answer, “Suzie’s hair must be thoroughly brushed and completely combed on a regular basis or it gets matted like she is right now. See how tight this is to her skin. It’s got to be really painful for her.”
Hand the comb to the owner and say, “This comb should go through her coat to the skin surface. Try it yourself and see how matted she is.”
Again, she demands, “Well that’s why I brought her to you. It’s your job to groom her!”
“Yes,” you reply. “It is my job to groom—not torture—pets. My main concern is the comfort and wellbeing of the dog or cat I am working on. Removing mats from a living, feeling animal can be very painful. I will not do anything to make them suffer. At our salon, we do have specialized tools and products that can help us break up the matting, but there is no magical way to eliminate the problem. Sometimes the hair can be de–matted, other times it is so bad that it must be completely removed. ”
“Every situation is different. I have been trained to know which solution is possible, and I will always do what is in the best interest of your pet.”
Then, in a calm, professional manner, let the owner know what her options are. If you can safely and humanely de–mat it, tell her the procedure will be time consuming and costly.
If you know the pet needs to be clipped very short, explain that it’s not as simple as just quickly clipping off the hair. When hair is badly matted, you have to remove it slowly and with extreme caution as you have no idea what is under it. If they don’t want their pet to be shaved, or to pay the additional cost of de–matting, you can simply refuse to groom it.
It’s important to be completely honest with the owner. If you need to make the pet short all over, don’t say, “I will leave as much hair as possible.” Most owners will take that as meaning their pet will still be fluffy, and it is a real shock to them when they see an almost hairless pet.
Often it is a no–win situation when you have to clip down a pet. Even though you have done your best for them, they seldom look “beautiful.” Many owners are unhappy that you shaved their fluffy baby. They wrongly assume that you simply clipped off the hair because you were too lazy to brush out the animal. And they may post their displeasure on social media.
Protect yourself. If you accept a matted cat or dog for grooming, ALWAYS have the owner sign a matted pet release. Take before, during and after the groom photos. Fully document any issues that you notice. If possible, video the entire groom.
If you are going to do a clip–down, make sure the owner realizes how short it will be. If you have photos of other cats or dogs that you have clipped short, show them to the owners so they know what to expect.
Additionally, at our salon, we display a matted pelt that was removed (in one piece) from a Sheepdog we groomed. Letting the owners look at and feel both the fluffy outer side, and the side that was next to the skin, helps give them a better understanding of what happened to their pet.
We all know that there is no such thing as a simple shave–down. You never know what is under all that matting. It can be urine soaked or feces covered hair and can hide parasites, rashes and sores. And, there is always the possibility of running into a mole or skin tag with your clippers, or even finding an existing injury under the matted hair.
When a pet is released from a ‘body cast’ of pelted hair, they can do a lot of damage to themselves by scratching and chewing. If you have to shave the hair off horribly matted ears, the dog can shake its head repeatedly until hematomas form and possibly begin to bleed. There is no end to the issues that can arise.
Whether you de–matt or completely clip down a pet, charge what you are worth. Both of these procedures are time and labor intensive, and require great skill to do properly.
When the owner arrives for pick–up, have him/her examine the entire pet in your presence to prove you did no harm to it. Caution them that if the pet chews, scratches or rubs itself, it could injure its skin.
Schedule their next appointment before the customer leaves your salon. Remind the customer that putting the dog/cat on a regular grooming schedule will keep it in good shape and eliminate the need to shave or de–mat in the future.
You may not have a magic wand, but you can have some pretty amazing tricks up your sleeve when it comes to dealing with matted pets.