I had an interesting case this morning that really shows how important it is do a good physical examination of the patient, no matter how sure you are of what the problem “probably is”. Or, as Sherlock Holmes once said, “It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the data.”
This very nice lady brought in her little poodle puppy. He had been having some coughing problems. She had owned the puppy for about a month, and it was fine at first. In the last two weeks, he had begun to cough, worse after exercise. In the past week, he had begun wheezing when exercising. And, now, he had begun to vomit after eating. He seemed to be choking on his food, then spitting it up.
Well, he could be having a little tracheo-bronchitis, or maybe some tonsillitis. In other words, he probably has a sore throat. It’s common enough.
He’s a happy little guy, very active and playful. He has lots of long curly hair. In fact, one of the first things I noticed was that he needed a little hair trimmed around his bottom where some poop had gotten stuck.
His chest sounds okay, so let’s take a look at his throat. The tonsils are a little swollen, but not much. I’ve seen worse lots of times, and that doesn’t really look like the problem. Hmmm… Let’s watch him eat, and see how that goes.
He gobbles up some hard treats pretty eagerly, but he does make some funky noises, and he does seem to have some trouble swallowing.
I pick him up and play with him a little bit. That’s when I notice that under that long hair is a collar. Actually, there are two collars, a flea collar and a nylon collar. They are both so tight that you couldn’t get a playing card under them.
I removed the collars, and we offered the pup some more treats. Again, he ate eagerly, and this time there was no choking, no weird noises. My goodness – he was choking and wheezing and coughing because his collar was too tight, and I almost missed it. Like his owner (who was incredibly embarrassed about this), that long hair kept it “out of sight, out of mind”.
Little puppies grow amazingly fast, attaining half of their adult size by four months of age, two thirds by six months. It is pretty common for people to put a collar on their new puppy and not realize how fast he is growing. While a situation like this one is unusual, I often see puppies who need to have their collars let out and the owners just haven’t realized it was getting too tight.
So, how tight should the collar be? Snug over two fingers. That will give the dog plenty of room to swallow and breathe. If the collar is too loose, the dog could get it hung up on something, even get it caught in his mouth. Too tight, and well… you know.