As puppies grow, many will become too big to wear their original collars. To accommodate this, dog owners should frequently check that their pet’s collar fits appropriately, especially in dogs that wear a collar for long periods of time.
Collars should be snug but not tight; owners should be able to easily slide 2 fingers under the collar when checking its fit.
At the same time, owners should ensure that the collar is not loose enough that it can slip over the dog’s head, allowing potential escape during walks.
If the fit is not right, many collars can be tightened or loosened to an extent, or the dog may need a new collar that is more appropriate for its size.
What is an Embedded Dog Collar?
If a dog continues to wear a collar that is too tight, the collar can become embedded. This means that, over time, too-tight collars create skin irritation that turns into an open wound, and the dog’s skin begins to grow over the collar.
If left in place, the collar will then begin to cut into the underlying tissue of the neck.
In mild cases, this may only affect the superficial layers of the skin, but in severe cases, the collar may cut more deeply into the muscle and connective tissue.
Embedded collars create chronic wounds that can become infected by bacteria, or, in dogs spending lots of time outside, infested with the larvae of flies that lay eggs in the wound.
These wounds are not only painful to the dog, but severe infections can lead to serious illness. Therefore, it is necessary to treat embedded collars as soon as possible to prevent further complications.
Signs of Embedded Collars in Dogs
A dog with an embedded collar may frequently whine, cry, and shake or scratch at the head and neck area.
Dogs may be sensitive to touch in this area, and may yelp or snap due to pain.
Wounds around the neck with blood, pus, scabbing, or crusting of the fur may be visible, and a bad odor may emanate from the wound.
Treatment for Embedded Collars in Dogs
Embedded collars require treatment by a veterinarian. In mild cases, the vet may be able to gently remove the collar, shave the surrounding hair to prevent further contamination, and clean the wound.
In more severe cases or when a dog is very painful, surgical removal of the collar and wound flushing and cleaning under sedation or general anesthesia may be necessary.
Affected dogs may need a topical ointment, oral antibiotic, and possible bandaging to treat the infected wound. Dogs with severely embedded collars and deep wounds may require extended treatment for multiple weeks until the wound heals.
An Ounce of Prevention....
Collars that become embedded can require extensive treatment, but preventing this is as simple as frequently checking that a dog’s collar is not too tight or taking the collar off when not in use.
In fact, many veterinarians do not recommend using collars for walking dogs. When a dog pulls against its collar, force is applied to one small area in the neck, potentially causing spinal injury.
Dogs with previous spinal injuries, or breeds like Dachshunds that are prone to neck and back problems, should never use collars for walking.
Additionally, collars should never be used to walk brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds like bulldogs and pugs that naturally have compromised airways, as pulling against a collar can obstruct their breathing even further.
For this reason, collars are also not recommended for dogs with airway conditions like collapsing trachea.
Alternatives to Collars
Safer alternatives to collars for dog walking include harnesses and head collars (also called Gentle Leaders®).
A harness is a device that wraps around a dog’s chest, distributing the force of pulling through the front half of the dog’s body rather than concentrating it at a single point. Multiple effective harness styles are available.
Head collars incorporate a nose loop that fits over the top of the dog’s muzzle and a neck strap that secures at the top of the dog’s neck, behind the head. When a dog pulls, the head collar places gentle force on the nose to direct the head and body backward toward the person holding the leash.
No pressure is applied to the neck or airway using this device. Though it looks similar, the head collar is not a muzzle; dogs can open their mouths normally while wearing it. Head collars work well to discourage pulling during leash training.
Though collars are not always ideal for dog walking, they may be used to display identification tags. All collars, regardless of purpose, should be regularly checked for good fit.
Ropes, cords, and metal chains should not be used as dog collars, as these materials are more likely to create neck wounds than the recommended leather or nylon collars, especially if they are too tight.
Prong collars, choke collars, and shock collars should be used only when absolutely necessary for brief training periods, as these can cause pain to the dog, as well as injury to the skin and airway.