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Pressure Necrosis

by Robin MacFarlane

I'd like to think the myth that a remote collar can burn a dog has been put to rest.

Most people now understand that the milliamps generated from the receiver of these collars simply cannot generate enough heat necessary to do tissue damage. If you need further understanding of how milliamps compare to amps, do a bit of Google research or take a look at this chart to see comparisons of output with similar contact devices used on humans and other animals.

If you are still not convinced, lets have a discussion about the real problem that can occur and the situation that people inappropriately label a 'burn'.

The real problem comes from inappropriate wear of the collar receiver. Pressure necrosis, or what many of us in the industry call "collar sores", can happen if the receiver is not on properly. They also occur (and can get REALLY ugly) if the collar is kept on the dog for too long of a period of time. Collars sores on a dog's neck are the equivalent to bedsores on a human.

They are a result of human error, not equipment failure.

Pressure necrosis occurs from one of two reasons:

1. Improper fit: A the receiver must be properly fitted to the dog's neck. Either too loose or too tight of a fit can cause problems. If the collar box is snugged down so tight that it does not move at all, the contact points will restrict blood flow to the tissue underneath, thus causing the skin tissue to begin to break down and deteriorate. This is what happens to a human who is bedridden and not repositioned frequently enough. Continual pressure placed on the skin by small points of contact decrease blood flow to that area of the body and cause tissue damage.

You can totally avoid this potential problem by moving the receiver to different locations on your dog's neck every 3 or so hours of wear time.

On the other hand, if the receiver is too loose, i.e. it can easily rotate around the neck or move vertically as the dog raises and lowers his head, the resulting friction will damage the skin. Imagine taking your fingernail and scratching the same few square inches of your skin continuously for 8 to 10 hours, you will end up with micro tears in the skin. Continual exposure to friction will eventually cause tissue damage, so avoid it by being sure to fit your collar properly. (See article: "Proper Fit of E-Collar")

Both of these problems are exacerbated to by the following reason:

2. Improper wear time. If the dog is wearing the collar for longer than recommended (8 - 10 hours per day) pressure sores may begin to form. The horrid pictures that some of us have seen floating around the internet are due to L-O-N-G extended wear times, (think days and weeks without taking the collar off of the dog). Plain and simple, those situations come from neglect. In my days working in veterinary clinics, we saw the same problems with slip collars, flat collars and pieces of rope or chain used to contain a dog. People didn't pay attention to growing puppies and never bothered to loosen the collar as the dog grew. The resulting pressure sores left horrid situations of skin damage on the dog's neck.

Every dog is different, and variables such as length of hair coat, health of the skin, and moisture can all play a role in contributing to the possibility of collar sores forming. Some dogs seem to have no problem wearing the collar receiver for a full day, and others begin to show signs of redness after a few hours.

The best advice I can provide you is to pay attention to your dog's neck when you begin using a remote collar, bark collar or containment fence collar. A few times throughout the day take a peek and see how the skin looks. Make sure the fit is correct and notice if there is the beginning signs of redness. If so, move the receiver box to the opposite side of the neck or take the collar off for a bit to increase airflow and circulation to the skin.

If you are using a waterproof product and your dog gets wet, make sure you take the receiver off for a while after the swim (or heavy rain/snow) to allow the skin to dry. Moisture trapped under the plastic housing of the collar will hasten the process of tissue breakdown. It is the same if you go jogging in the rain. You want to get dry feet again fairly soon. If you keep walking around in wet shoes and socks, the friction combined with moisture will cause a blister to develop.

This isn't rocket science. This is common sense, good management and care of your dog. Next time someone suggests the e-collar will burn your dog, take a few moments to set them straight. It is time for that myth to disappear.

-- Robin

Robin MacFarlane is a professional dog trainer and owner of Thatís My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa. Her best-selling dog training DVDs, JUST RIGHT and JUST RIGHT 2 have helped thousands of dog owners teach their dogs basic obedience and fix problem behaviors through a system of training that you can easily work into your daily routine.

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