There has been a recent increase in the popularity of fashionable dog and cat collars.
It's not unusual for my patients to be sporting collars incorporating fake diamonds or pearls, electronic ID tags, or lucky charms.
Often when choosing a collar for a pet, owners consider aesthetics. But a poor collar choice can negatively impact the animal wearing it.
Collars are an important means of signifying that animals are owned.
They are useful for attaching identification tags, which can be used to rapidly identify an animal and contact owners if an animal strays or becomes lost.
Unlike microchips, which are also important and required for animal registration, tags attached to collars do not require specialist equipment for scanning.
So they're very handy and certainly make it easier to reunite owners with lost companion animals.
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Collars are often a site of attachment for leads. A sturdy lead is a useful means of controlling animals in public and preventing misadventure. But, a lead attached to a collar can be a problem in dogs that pull, as this focuses pressure on the neck.
It can cause compression of the airway and major blood vessels.
If a dog pulls on a lead, investing in training with an accredited dog trainer can be helpful. In some cases, attaching a lead to an alternative, such as a halti or harness, may reduce this pulling tendency and take pressure off the neck.
Some owners attach a GPS tracking device to their pet's collar so that they can locate them if they wander.
Other popular attachments include bells on cat collars (used to create noise and thus warn potential prey), reflectors (used to alert motorists to the presence of an animal on or near the road by reflecting car headlights), accelerometers (to detect motion), and - increasingly - ornaments.
The latter, while aesthetically pleasing, don't benefit animals, and may be associated with entrapment of fur, injuries to the skin or discomfort through increasing the weight of the collar.
Unfortunately, anything dangling from a collar - even an identification tag - can become entrapped if too long.
Thus the shape and length of attachments should be considered carefully, and the length of attachments minimised.
The weight of collars and associated attachments should also be minimised as this can lead to discomfort.
Collars made of abrasive materials can injure skin, while those that are not flexible may impede movement.
Inappropriately fitted collars can lead to misadventure and injuries.
A common injury in cats with loose-fitting collars occurs when a forelimb becomes entrapped in the collar (Domingues Paulino and Williams, 2023). This leads to laceration of the armpit. Such wounds are notoriously difficult to close, are prone to breaking down following surgery, and can take months to heal.
Quick-release collars are recommended for cats, so that if a limb becomes entrapped, the collar will snap open.
Tight collars restrict blood flow and breathing. In cases of neglect, collars may become embedded into the skin. Animals may need to be anaesthetised so they can be surgically removed.
Collars should be fitted carefully and checked regularly, especially in growing animals.
As a rule, I try to ensure that I can slide two fingers between the animal and the collar when the collar is fastened.
To minimise irritation to skin, wet, dirty or soiled collars should be removed, cleaned and dried before being replaced.
DOMINGUES PAULINO, R. and WILLIAMS, J. M. 2023. Chronic axillary wounds in cats: what do we know and how should we manage them? Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 25, 1098612X231162880.
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