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Dr Platzhund
4 minute read
10 Aug 2013
7:00 am

The lowdown on collars

Dr Platzhund

There is a complete lack of understanding about the correct purpose and application of collars on dogs and cats.

Stock image courtesy Wikimedia Commons (Shopmimigreen)

The most irritating aspect of it all is the urban legend perception that the pet will be strangled if it is tied too tight. I have never, in four decades, come across an instance where a cat has been strangled in a tree or a dog has been strangled on a fence due to the collar being tight.

I have, however, encountered, in private veterinary practice, numerous forms of injury and fatal freak accidents from collars having been fitted too loose by the over-concerned owners.

The collars for dogs and cats are not jewellery, but rather a highly necessary accessory to fulfill very important functions such as a means for manually controlling the animal, used as an attachment for a leash and placement of an identity disc. An alarmingly high percentage of pet owners apply the collars far too loose and in this manner the pets can strangle themselves, because it hangs like a noose waiting to get hooked on to any protruding object.

In some bizarre incidents veterinarians have found pets where the one front leg has been pushed through the collar and got wedged in the armpit. If the predicament is not detected by the owners early enough the collar can cut through the entire armpit over a period of time until the odour of the infection and the awkwardness of the animal’s gait alerts the owner to the injury.

Some collars have been pulled slightly over the head and wedged itself in the mouth of the cat or dog cutting through the lips at the gate of the mouth and all the owner notices is the animal constantly pawing at its face and salivating being unable to close its mouth properly.

Image courtesy AleksandarMomirovic/

Image courtesy AleksandarMomirovic/


In one bizarre accident two Irish Wolfhound puppies died by strangling each other in a normal game of play. When the owners were instructed to apply the collars correctly – which is the same fitting as a watchstrap on a person’s wrist – they were highly offended about the cruelty of the suggestion and didn’t want to strangle their puppies.

It was explained that the only way a puppy could be strangled would be for it to hang by its collar. During a romp in the garden the one pup got its entire mouth through the loose-fitting collar of the other pup and in the process the jaw got wedged over and through the collar which made the other panic and twist itself away from the grabbing effect.

In a matter of minutes the loosely-collared pup went in one direction and the other pup could not get its mouth out and spun in the opposite direction – with the result that both pups strangled themselves. This could never have occurred if they were properly fitted. This would never have happened if the owners had listened to reason.

Every collar on a cat or dog should fit snugly around the neck so that only one finger fits easily between neck and collar. If two fingers fit, it is too loose. In the case of puppies and kittens which are continually growing and changing in size and weight, every time you pat your cat or handle your puppy take a second to check the collar status. The collar should be attached at all times especially if the animal escapes from home.

If there is no implanted microchip then the only return ticket home is the identity details on the collar. The collar should always be a soft and durable material with a quality unimposing buckle. Nylon, leather and webbing are the most popular flat collars which routinely include a loop for attaching a lead.

Dog collars are essential devi-ces in directing and teaching dogs, as opposed to a harness which is useless for training because it gives the dog too much traction, connects to the top of the chest and centre of the animal, and there is absolutely no head control. In the case of flea and tick collars the same principles apply. If too loose it is ineffective and can get wedged with serious toxic results if caught in the gape of the mouth.

It can’t be removed until expired after one month. Luminous or lighted collars have a practical advantage of the animal being detectable at night with the light from a torch or headlights from a car.

Next week: learn about different kinds of collars.