We now move on to the under-reported topic of dog throat injury from collar chafing and pulling. This is horrible for a dog, especially those with an ill fitting collar or a puller. As ever, these guidelines and hints are no substitute for a trip to the vet.
What causes dog collars to injure your dog?
Most dogs wear collars every day of their lives. As with humans who wear glasses, our canine companions become so accustomed to having a collar around their neck that they merely aren’t aware of it after a while. That is, however, until it starts to cause irritation.
Perils of the ill fitting collar
An ill-fitting collar that rubs pinches or chafes your dog’s neck can cause severe and long-lasting damage and discomfort. Owners often aren’t even aware of the problem as the area of the skin suffering abrasion is covered by the collar, and a dog has no real way of alerting us to their pain other than scratching incessantly or whining.
While chafing often occurs around the inside of a dog’s legs, irritation of the neck is usually attributed to a collar. Symptoms of chafed skin include hair loss, a ‘skinned knee’ appearance, and redness. These symptoms can be recognised as chafing as they’ll usually line up with something being worn by your dog. Whereas skin conditions such as dermatitis will typically exhibit itchiness and inflammation around the eyes, wrists, ankles, limbs, groin or toes.
The good news
The good news is that issues like dog collar chafing are entirely preventable if the right steps are taken. Many owners opt for harnesses for their dogs. However for those who prefer collars, a variety of options exist to ensure your pet remains comfortable and chafe-free.
But first, let’s look at where dog throat injury from collar usage issues stem from.
What causes chafing?
Perhaps the first and most obvious problem with many collars is how tightly they’re fitted. If your pet’s collar is too tight, it can dig into his neck and produce an injury resembling a burn, which is extremely uncomfortable for a dog.
How tight should a dog collar be?
Most manufacturers recommend that you should be able to put two fingers under your dog’s collar easily – anything tighter is too tight.
A poorly-fitting collar can affect your dog’s eating, drinking and even breathing, which could be catastrophic over time. Also, a collar that’s too stiff (such as one made from untreated leather) can also cause irritation. A dog that pulls or strains on his lead or chain could severely exacerbate issues caused by a tight collar as well.
The biggest cause of dog throat injury from collar use is pulling, Many dogs often pull incessantly on their lead during a walk. I can attest to this from personal experience with our Cockapoo! Straining on a lead can result in dog throat injury from collar wearing. This occurs even if the collar isn’t fitted too tightly. As an owner, you can also suffer from friction burns to your hands when trying to keep hold of a pulling dog.
Pups can and should train not to strain on their lead during a walk but some breeds are naturally prone to it. It can be difficult to dissuade them from pulling constantly.
Electric collars cause chafing… obviously.
Specialist collars, such as those with electric shock features that activate when your dog crosses a predetermined boundary, can leave painful burn marks in your pet’s neck. This includes if the collar malfunctions or if your dog repeatedly attempts to breach his enclosure. In such instances, remove the collar immediately and restrain your dog in some other way.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of electric shock collars (I detest them – but in the interests of impartiality – I shall continue) – they generally work very well and act more as a deterrent, but will still hurt your dog. I suspect they would have the same outcome on a human. This led to their banning in the UK.
If you don’t like the idea of shocking your dog, there are collars that vibrate and beep instead. We use one of these to deter our Golden Retriever from barking at night, and it works a treat without hurting him at all.
Wet dogs can = irritated necks
Dog collar chafing can also result from your dog getting wet. After returning from a walk during which Buster has gone for a swim, or you’ve both been caught in an unexpected rain shower (been there), remove the collar and allow the skin and fur to dry thoroughly before fitting it again – remember to dry the collar out too by hanging it over a radiator or somewhere else in your house with some heat. Moisture trapped under a collar is a prime source of chafing for a dog’s skin.
Suggestions on avoiding dog throat injury from collar use
As with dog harnesses, leads and seat belts, collars come in a wide variety of colours, sizes, types and costs. What you choose to go with will ultimately depend on what you know of your dog and his or her temperament.
Flat collars are the most common preference worldwide. Almost every dog will wear a flat collar at some point in his life, whether during his puppy years or all the time. They come in an array of options, so whether you want to embellish your pooch with some bling or just have some plain old respectable leather around his neck, flat collars are the way to go.
Head Collars or Halters
Head collars or halters are a solution for dogs that tend to strain on their lead. These collars slip over the snout and attach behind the head, giving the owner much more control of the dog during a walk. They may look a little extreme, but dogs are usually calmer and more willing to submit when wearing one. They can, however, be more difficult to introduce to your dog than a flat collar.
Slip collars/leads are also useful for dogs who struggle with proper walking etiquette. Many come in rope- form (more fashionable these days) and just slip over the dog’s head. When the dog strains or pulls, the collar tightens just enough to remind them to ease off, and then loosens up again as soon as they do so. These are particularly useful for bigger dogs who can be off the lead during a walk but need restrained if another dog approaches.
Many owners prefer harnesses to collars. They usually are sturdier and spread the force exerted during a pull over more of the dog’s body. It would be unwise, however, to make your dog wear one all the time. This would undoubtedly have a long-term adverse effect on their skin and fur.
A prong or pinch collar proves even more controversial than the electric shock collar mentioned earlier. People use Prong/Pinch collars to training dogs not to pull or lunge. Many owners swear by them, but critics view them as inhumane (Editors note: they are!) as their prongs can dig into a dog’s neck. Wouldn’t be for me, personally, but you may have a different experience.
A martingale collar, finally, combines a traditional flat buckle collar with the additional controlling function of a slip collar. These collars tend to be for dog breeds with narrow heads, like Whippets.
The most appropriate collar for your dog will always depend on his age and size. A Bernese Mountain Dog puppy might look cute when he’s tugging on his flat collar during a walk. The same dog won’t be quite as attractive when he weighs 50 kilos and chokes himself straining on the same bit of leather. Pick a collar that will best suit your dog’s age, size and temperament.
If it’s time to ditch the collar in exchange for a harness and lead – check out our review of the Ruffwear Front Range Harness. There are lots of Non-Pull harnesses out there – but this is the one we have used with great results.
For a lead to accompany it – check out the often recommended Halti.
Solutions for injured necks
There are many simple, practical solutions to dog throat injury from collar use.
Loosen up that collar:
How tight should a dog collar be? Use the two-finger test to check that your dog’s collar isn’t too tight. If it is, adjust it to the right fitting, one that’s comfortable for him without being so loose he can wiggle out of it during a walk.
Teach proper walking etiquette:
If your dog pulls and strains on his lead, teach him through positive reinforcement (“Good boy! Here’s a treat!”) to walk calmly alongside you. Generally, good habits form in the puppy years when information is absorbed like a sponge.
Remove pain-inducing collars:
If the electric shock or prong collar hurts your dog, take it off and keep it off, at least until any wounds heal fully. Then re-evaluate. Alternatively, placing the electric/prong collar in a bin is equally as effective.
Remember the moisture:
Wetness under the collar can lead to skin chafing. You should remove the collar after he’s been in the river or been caught in the rain. Towel him off and dry out that collar.
Treat dog collar chafing correctly:
Minor dog throat injury from collar wearing can be treated with a salve (similar to those used to treat nappy rash), coconut oil, or by keeping your dog’s neck collar-free for a while. Don’t put the collar back on until the wound has healed. When you do, take steps to make ensure doesn’t happen again. Speak to your vet if an injury doesn’t improve or occurs repeatedly.
In summary, dog throat injury from collar wearing can be a serious issue, but one that’s entirely preventable and treatable. Remember:
- Keep an eye out for signs of chafing, such as itchiness, redness and burn-like marks, especially around your dog’s neck.
- Identify the cause of your dog’s collar chafing and respond immediately. These include tightness, inadequate training, overuse of specialist collars, and moisture.
- Choose a collar that best suits your dog’s age, size and temperament.
- Address issues of dog pulling and train accordingly.
- Treat wounds appropriately resulting from collar-chafing. Keep the collar off until injuries heal fully. Consult your vet if things don’t improve.
At the end of the day, as owners, we all want our pets to be happy, comfortable and pain-free. Let’s remain vigilant to collar-chafing and similar common issues that affect our four-legged friends.
We hope you found our article on dog throat injury from collar wearing useful. Please leave your own tips and suggestions on dog collar injury in the comments section below.