How Tight Should a Collar Be?

Halloween dogSome animals wear crazy costumes.  Some wear bandannas, and some wear harnesses,
and some wear halters like the “Gentle Leader”, but a collar is still the most
popular item of pet apparel.

I had an interesting case this morning that really shows how
important it is do a good physical examination of the patient, no matter how
sure you are of what the problem “probably is”. 
Or, as Sherlock Holmes once said, “It is a capital mistake to theorize
in advance of the data.”

This very nice lady brought in her little poodle puppy.  He had been having some coughing
problems.  She had owned the puppy for
about a month, and it was fine at first. 
In the last two weeks, he had begun to cough, worse
after exercise.  In the past week, he had
begun wheezing when exercising.  And,
now, he had begun to vomit after eating. 
He seemed to be choking on his food,  then spitting it up.

Well, he could be having a little tracheo-bronchitis, or
maybe some tonsillitis.  In other words,
he probably has a sore throat.  It’s
common enough.

He’s a happy little guy, very active and playful.  He has lots of long curly hair.  In fact, one of the first things I noticed was
that he needed a little hair trimmed around his bottom where some poop had gotten

His chest sounds okay, so let’s take a look at his
throat.  The tonsils are a little
swollen, but not much.  I’ve seen worse
lots of times, and that doesn’t really look like the problem.   Hmmm… 
Let’s watch him eat, and see how that goes.

He gobbles up some hard treats pretty eagerly, but he does
make some funky noises, and he does seem to have some trouble swallowing. 

I pick him up and play with him a little bit.  That’s when I notice that under that long
hair is a collar.  Actually, there are
two collars, a flea collar and a nylon collar. 
They are both so tight that you couldn’t get a playing card under them.

I removed the collars, and we offered the pup some more
treats.  Again, he ate eagerly, and this
time there was no choking, no weird noises. 
My goodness – he was choking and wheezing and coughing because his
collar was too tight, and I almost missed it. 
Like his owner  (who was
incredibly embarrassed about this), that long hair kept it “out of sight, out
of mind”.

Little puppies grow amazingly fast, attaining half of their
adult size by four months of age, two thirds by six months.  It is pretty common for people to put a
collar on their new puppy and not realize how fast he is growing.   While a situation like this one is unusual, I
often see puppies who need to have their collars let out and the owners just
haven’t realized it was getting too tight.

Collar tightSo, how tight should the collar be?  Snug over two fingers.  That will give the dog plenty of room to
swallow and breathe.    If the collar is
too loose, the dog could get it hung up on something, even get it caught in his
mouth.  Too tight, and well… you know.

One thought on “How Tight Should a Collar Be?

  1. Sarah says:

    Thanks for bringing this to everyone’s attention. Like you said, it is very easy to put a collar on our pet and forget they grow so fast that it might need checking frequently. Great tip on ensuring the collar is at the perfect snugness.

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