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The world of collars and leashes

There’s always someone out there with an opinion, and at BVH we have ours as well! Choosing a collar and leash for your pet should be an easy decision, but once you enter a pet store you find that there are far more choices than you ever expected. We see all types in the veterinary field, and we’ve experience the good and bad aspects of some of them.

For cats, I recommend that all of them wear a collar. Even my indoor cats have collars on because I worry about one of them sneaking out the door when I’m trying to leave or enter with my arms full. I feel more assured that the average person who might find them outside will realize that they are owned (not a stray) and either leave them alone to find their way back home or take them somewhere to have their microchip scanned. Microchips are the best way of permanently identifying your pet, but always make sure that your contact information with the microchip company is up to date! It can be frustrating to find a microchip only to find out that the contact information was either never given to the microchip company or never updated when the owner’s address or phone number changed. This, of course, goes for both dogs and cats. Back to collars – cats should always have a breakaway collar so that if they jump onto something and the collar gets caught, it will open to free them instead of strangling them.

For dogs, many more options are available. Collars that I find very comfortable for dogs are the thick cloth collars that are typically thought of as greyhound collars. These collars do not make you feel as though you are choking the dog, and most dogs seem to find them comfortable. Other thinner cloth or vinyl collars also work well as long as they are fitted correctly. The collar should sit firmly on the neck, but not be so tight that you have to work to get 2-3 fingers between the collar and the dog’s neck. Conversely, the collar should not be so loose so that your dog can easily pull out of the collar if he or she decides she would rather go in a different direction than you! Chain collars are durable, and if used correctly do not cause any harm. However, if a dog pulls a lot, the chain can put enough force on the neck to cause them to cough and gag as though they are choking. For dogs that pull a lot, other options include the gentle leader or easy walk harness. Always remember to display your dog’s current rabies vaccination tag on their collar. Adding an additional tag with the pet’s name and your phone number can also be helpful if the dog is prone to escaping from a fenced yard. I found a dog on a walk one day that was very friendly, and she insisted on following me and my dog home. Once I was able to secure my own dog in the house, I was able to call the number on her tag and reunite her with her owner in a short period of time.

As far as leashes go, a leash that is 6 feet or shorter is ideal. This allows you to always have good control of your pet, and it prevents your pet from approaching other animals or people that may not react kindly to the attention. Just like we may not react well if another person that we didn’t know came running up to our face, not all dogs react well to that type of greeting. In my opinion, the leashes that are the most dangerous are the retractable leashes. Not only can they get wrapped around legs, arms, and fingers causing significant damage to the pet owner or observer, they also do not allow for good control over the pet. When extended, the pet can easily approach animals and humans with little ability to control the interaction from the pet owner.

If you have a question about a leash or collar, ask your veterinarian or a trusted dog trainer. Not every leash and every collar is appropriate for every dog. They’re all unique creatures!

The importance of healthy weight in our pets

You may have heard your veterinarian tell you that your pet needs to lose some weight. You may have even briefly tried to reduce your pet’s weight to only find them begging for food at all times of the day and night. So, why does the veterinarian keep harping on this one topic?!
Overweight animals can suffer many of the same complications as overweight humans. The extra pounds put extra pressure on joints which may accelerate or exacerbate arthritis. Extra weight can increase the incidence of breathing problems in our pets. In cats, obesity predisposes them to developing diabetes. Additionally, overweight cats that suddenly stop eating can develop a life threatening liver condition called hepatic lipidosis. Overweight animals also develop decreased mobility which can make scratching a simple itch impossible. Cats can become so obese that they are no longer able to groom themselves and develop painful matted hair throughout their haircoat.
Unfortunately, our society has become so accustomed to seeing overweight animals that we often don’t recognize when our own pets have put on too much weight. Sometimes animals at their ideal weight are labeled as too skinny. The Guinness Book of World Records fortunately stopped reporting the heaviest cat because people were purposefully overfeeding their cats in order to gain entry into the book.
Because of the health issues that are directly related to obesity, we cannot look at an overweight animal and just think it is cute. Most of our animals are only fed what we offer them, therefore controlling their weight should be relatively simple. Your veterinarian is your best source for weight loss advice for your pet. They have studied animal nutrition in school, and their opinion should be valued above that of the groomer or pet store employee. If simply cutting back on food does not result in weight loss, exercise regimes and prescription diets may be needed. If you have a dog that needs to lose weight, walking them on a regular basis can help the pet lose weight and also keep the owner healthy as well. Let’s give our pets the best chance of living a long happy life by refusing to accept extra pounds or obesity as normal!