Dog Collars Dangerous?
By Dr. Jeannie Thomason – co-founder of the American Council of Animal Naturopathy
and Dr. Erin O’Connor – animal chiropractor and certified carnivore nutrition consultant
The #1 reason why dogs are given up to shelters or rescues is due to behavior issues. This most common reason is due to a miscommunication and lack of clear communication with training tools that harm the dog’s body coupled with a lack of understanding of how to naturally communicate or “train” them.
Walking with your canine companion is one of the best things you can do for both your own and the dog’s physical and emotional well-being. It can also strengthen the bond that you share. However, if you’re using a collar and using it improperly, you could be physically and/or emotionally harming your companion canine, often without you even knowing it.
Anders Hallgren conducted a chiropractic study in Sweden in 1992. Dog Owners were offered a free examination of their dog by a Chiropractor in return for their voluntary participation.
The dogs in this study were considered well-cared so the study did not include dogs where owners would have abusive handling to hide Those who volunteered to participate in the Study had mostly ordinary dogs, in that; owners presented them without any suspicion of spinal anomalies… (Canine back problems are common.)
The results of the Study show that the Chiropractors found back anomalies in 63% of the 400 dogs!
Dogs that ‘acted out’, in other words, that exhibited over activity and aggression; 78% had spinal anomalies. Spinal anomalies seem to constitute an irritation that often results in stress reactions, aggression or fear. Mr. Halgren found that this was also in accordance with his own and his Students experience as Behaviorists, with problematic dogs
The study showed that 252 of 400 dogs had misaligned spines, and 65% of the 252 with spinal problems also had behavioral problems. Only 30% of dogs without spinal injuries had behavioral problems. 78% of the dogs labeled aggressive or hyperactive had spinal problems.
63% of the dogs examined had neck and spinal injuries.
78% of the dogs with aggression or over activity problems had neck and spinal injuries.
Of the dogs with neck injuries, 91% had experienced hard jerks on a leash or had strained against their leashes. (1)
More research indicates that it only takes the weight of a dime to depress a nerve’s function by 50%. So, it’s understandable how a tug on a collar, especially a thin and/or narrow one could cause major pressure and trauma to a small area of the neck. If you catch the neck at a critical angle, you may even blow out or collapse a disc, causing nerve or muscle injury or worse.
According to a study in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association in 2006, pressure generated when dogs pull while wearing choke collars and/or even flat collars also raises the pressure in the eye. As a result, it may worsen the disease progression in dogs with glaucoma, thin corneas, and other eye conditions where the pressure in the eye is an issue.
Tracheal collapse has happened to dogs that have only worn a flat collar for leash walking. When on a leash, regular pressure from the collar—whether because the dog or the human pulls—is sadly, often at the root of this.
How many of you have heard the numerous stories of dog’s catching a tooth or teeth in another dog’s collar ring while playing? Or getting their tags caught the other dog’s mouth or collar or of tags getting caught on bushes or even in air vents?
A well known and respected collar and training equipment company found in a recent survey that 96% of Veterinarians report having seen or heard of a collar-related injury or death within the last year. That translates to thousands of suffering and/or dead dogs each year.
Dr. Erin O’Connor, an AVCA animal chiropractor and owner of Vitality Chiropractic Center, has seen many injuries due to collar use. One of the most common injuries that she has seen in her practice is musculoskeletal injury since the cervical spine and many muscles responsible for moving the head, neck, and front limbs are in that area. Sometimes this can translate into a forelimb limp due to injury to muscles that run through the neck and insert into the forelimb, or injury to one of the nerves, which runs from the cervical spine and through the front leg. If a dog is pulled in certain positions, it can also cause enough load on the spine for a disc injury.
Dr. O’Connor has also observed that many avid “pullers” develop thyroid issues or tracheal collapse. The reason for thyroid malfunction in dogs who pull is that the area of the neck that most collars put pressure on is just in front of the thyroid gland. As for tracheal collapse, the trachea runs through the neck, connecting the upper part respiratory system (the larynx and pharynx), to the lungs and can also receive micro-injures over time from collar pressure causing damage.
Some of these injuries are recoverable, some are not, so as prevention to injury, she advocates for harness use in her patients. Harnesses give the ability to walk your dog on leash without putting stress on the crucial structures of the neck, which include the cervical spine, neck musculature, thyroid, trachea, blood vessels, and lymphatic vessels. Even if a dog pulls while wearing a harness, there is a great amount of osseous protection and support to not cause injury or health issues in your dog. She also recommends seeking out chiropractic care for your pet to help prevent health issues if you have used a collar, whether or not they are displaying symptoms currently. A directory of animal chiropractors can be found at AVCAdoctors.com.
I know many dog owners still put collars on their dogs to hang their ID tags from in case the dogs should some how get away from them even while wearing a harness for walking or training. However, please, consider removing the dog’s collars when they are at home in the house or in the yard playing. Not only can the tags get caught up in bushes, on chain link fences, etc. But they can also become caught in another dog’s teeth while playing. There have even several accounts of dog’s playing with other dogs wearing a collar, getting their lower jaw caught in the other dog’s collar- choking the dog wearing the collar and causing injury to the dog whose jaw or teeth are hung up in the collar..
As an animal naturopath and long time natural rearing dog breeder, I have always advocated the use of a harness over collars and Tattoos over microchips or tags. – Subject of a future article.
(1)Published In The:”Animal Behaviour Consultants Newsletter” July,1992 V.9 No 2