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Thursday, 23 July 2009

Harnessing the persistant cough

A few years ago my dog got kennel cough, ever since whenever he pulls on his lead he coughs like he still has kennel cough. This can be embarrassing if we're out and about as it appears like I'm walking an infectious dog. Has the cough weakened him?
Should I consider using a harness so I don't irritate his throat. He normally walks to heel nicely it's just that sometimes there can be something he particularly want to sniff that causes him to pull against the collar.
What's the gentlest collar and will they work on a very hairy dog? He's a Beardie in full coat. How do you know what size to buy?
Geraldine Stevens, Dewsbury

Kennel cough is often called infectious tracheitis, meaning an infection causing inflammation of the windpipe or trachea. There may well be residual scarring or damage in your dog’s windpipe causing him to cough when he pulls on his lead against his collar.
Alternatively, if a dog has been pulling against his collar for much of his life when walked on collar and lead, it is not unusual for the windpipe to become very sensitive, resulting in a cough when the slightest pressure is applied to it.
If a dog will not walk nicely on collar and lead, or slip lead, then it is far more preferable to use a body harness or head halter. I know that there are members of the public who take one look at a head halter and shy away, mistaking it for a muzzle. I could only walk our Labbie on a head halter when I was recovering from a whiplash injury to my neck, and gave up explaining to people that it was not a muzzle because the main thing was that I could walk her in comfort. We have to walk half a mile down a country lane at either end of our walk, so it is important for both of us to enjoy that part of the walk as much as the major part when Pippin is running free. Using a head halter or body harness does give the handler far more control, and your dog will be far more inclined to walk without pulling, whilst sparing the neck area because there will be no pressure applied there at all.
Ponder this: you would not think of walking a horse with a rope around his or her neck, would you? We expect to see some form of head halter on a horse, so why not on a dog? I would certainly try walking your dog on a head halter and a body harness (separately, not at the same time!) and see which he seems to prefer, and which you find easier to fit. With a head halter in particular, you may want to still have a lead attached to his collar the first few times that you use it so that there is no pressure on the halter. It will be a strange and different feeling from being walked on collar and lead, which may take your dog a little time to accept. Pippin still intermittently rubs at her head with her paws, or against my legs, but it is ideal when walking in crowds, for example, for the greater degree of control one has, as well as avoiding pressure being applied to the windpipe.
Alison Logan, Vet

Sadly this is more common than you think - when a collar is attached to a lead it causes painful pressure to the sensitive areas around a dog's neck and throat causing symptoms such as those you describe. A collar and lead can also result in collapsed trachea and certain eye disorders (see web link and our web page which has other links as terms of reference).
It is very important to have a well fitted harness that does not have a bar across the front of the dog, at the base of the neck, as this can also aggravate dog's damaged throats as well.
Soft padding is also a factor to bear in mind, as narrow webbing made of nylon or polypropylene will rub against the dog's soft coat causing friction, soreness and breaking of the delicate coat. Many dogs find these styles of harness just as uncomfortable as a collar and pull to get away from the pain that they experience, not realising that their pulling causes
the pain in the first place. Pulling seems to be the only answer for the dog because the quicker it can get to its destination the sooner the painful collar or harness will be removed.
As the original inventor of the Fleece Lined Harness (which includes padding on the girth strap as well as the arm pit area which is also a very sensitive area for a dog) and also the Perfect Fit Harness I recognised the drawbacks of collars and webbing harnesses and designed these two styles of walking harnesses to overcome all these problems. Both have soft fleece
padding which sits snugly against the dog's body, preventing movement and friction burns. We sell both styles of harness not only on our web shop but also wholesale to veterinary surgeries, rescue centres, groomers, pet shops etc all over the world - all of which have seen first hand the amazing difference to a dog's quality of life when taken for a walk on their fleece lined harness and lead.
With regards to sizing - our web shop has breed charts for both styles of harness and if you are still unsure as to what size to order just contact our sales team on or 01684 569553 (Mon - Fri 10 - 4) with your dog's breed (or description if a cross breed), age,sex, and the dog's girth measurement (that is measure your dog's body just behind
the front legs, making sure it is a nice snug fit against the dog).
Sally Hopkins -

1 comment:

  1. Christine Bailey3 August 2009 at 05:14

    I believe on a harness is by far the kindest way to walk a dog, and my doggie chiropractor agrees! I like the fleece ones from Dog Games, the dog does not have to lift his leg to get it on.