Collar Strangulation

Dec 17, 2018   Tracey Aston   Health & Wellness

Pet collars are cute, colorful and customizable, but they can also be dangerous and deadly.  Collar strangulation, or collar suffocation, occurs when a pet's collar gets caught on an object, fence or even another pet and while attempting to get away, the collar tightens around their neck restricting air flow. As much as pet parents want to believe this is a rare occurrence, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) reports close to 26,000 collar strangulation accidents happen each year.  

While supervising a pet is always best, even supervised pets run the risk of collar strangulation with a normal collar. When a collar gets caught, a pet will go into panic mode, leading to pulling, struggling, and they will end up choking themselves. A panicked pet will be harder to get under control and poses a risk to themselves and others who are trying to help them. 

The frequency of collar accidents has led several large pet companies to create break-away collars in an attempt to prevent such accidents. The breakaway collar is designed to prevent pets from getting entangled by their collars and features a break-away safety buckle that releases when pressure is applied. This means, if a pet has gotten their collars caught on something, and begins to pull away, the collar will pull apart and not strangle the pet. Breakaway collars are safe for walks, as when walking your pet, the leash will go into a D ring on each side of the clasp, allowing your pet to remain under your control. 


Collars serve a purpose, such as, keeping pets safe and under control in public or in their yard, and a reliable place to attach their ID and tags. The issue with collars occurs when pets are left unsupervised while wearing collars or collars are left on at all times.  Many animal hospitals, veterinary clinics and groomers have strict rules on removing collars from unsupervised pets for the reasons listed above. 

While having ID on collars are always a good thing in case they get lost or are door dashers , a normal collar can get caught on anything while out. Always microchip or tattoo a pet that is wearing a breakaway collar. The collar will keep the pet safe and the microchipping and tattooing will allow you to be reunited. Studies have shown microchipping is a cancer risk for cats, therefore, tattooing is recommended over microchipping for cats.

Collars can get caught on a wide range of objects increasing the risk of collar strangulation.

Crates:  Pets should never be left crated wearing a collar. The collar, hardware, or even ID tags themselves can become caught in the metal bars of a crate. 

Fencing:  Fences are also a normally positive item for our pets. However, when fencing meets collars, a huge risk is set up. Pets love to run, play, dig and jump, and in any of these situations, their collars can be come caught on the fence posts, or latches. 

Branches and bushes: During a trip through the woods or a local hike, a pet's collar can snag on a low lying branch or brush. 

Other pets:  Pets like to play with their mouths, especially dogs. They'll nip, lick, and play mouth each other's neck area. The collar or D ring can then get stuck to the other pet's lower jaw and teeth. While struggling to free themselves, one dog may strangle, and the other is left with a broken jaw. Even if you are supervising pets, the best bet is not to allow collars when dogs are playing, even if you are supervising pets, you might not be able to get the collar off fast enough, and waste valuable time trying to figure out how to remove it. A scared pet, with your hands close to their mouths not only puts both dogs in danger but also you. 

Heating/Cooling air vents:  many pets love snuggling up to vents to get cool in the summer or warm in the winter.  Hanging collar tags can easily slip into the vent slats and become lodged. 

Porches or decks: pets left unattended while wearing a collar, and especially if a leash or run is attached, can fall over the edge of a porch or deck and strangle themselves. 

Collars are a necessity, and normally a very safe one when used properly and under supervision.  Pets wearing collars should always be under supervision, whether walking or play time with other pets. Doing so will reduce the likelihood of an accident, and ensure your pet stays happy and healthy for years to come! 

 
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