Can Shock Collars Cause Hair Loss?

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Shock collars are one of the dog training tools that have controversial opinions over their use. Some trainers highly recommend them while others think they should be banned. The reason behind the later extremity is that many trainers are not aware of their right use.

Shock collars use electric shock to train the dog, but it’s a static shock that many of us suffer from daily life. Therefore, there are some approaches that need to be maintained to make the use of these collars safe for the dogs. For instance, buying a good quality collar, using a normal level of stimulation, checking the fitness of the collar around the neck, and cleaning the neck area regularly after the use of the collar for training purposes. Ignoring any of the above can put your best friend’s health at risk.

Besides infection and wounds on the neck, bald spots have also been observed due to the improper use of these collars. Hair protects the dog’s neck; losing hair can damage the skin and cause other complications. Here is the complete guide on how shock collars cause hair loss in dogs and what is the treatment and prevention for it.

Causes of Hair Loss Under the Collar

If used rightly, a dog’s collar (whatever type it may be) cannot cause any damage to the dog, but if not used correctly, the dog will probably suffer some loss. Following are the reasons that aid hair loss in dogs that wear shock collars for training:

Pressure Sores

Hair loss is one of the major effects of pressure sores in dogs. When the metal contact points of the dog collar come in contact with the dog’s neck frequently, lesions are formed that are often filled with white fluid. The major reason behind these pressure sores (also called pressure ulcers and bedsores) is the neck’s lack of oxygen or blood. Besides hair loss, the dog also suffers pain and skin decolorization. Pus in the lesions often smell, and the skin thickens. In severe cases, wounds may open, resulting in giving bacteria a free pass to the internal organs. It can damage the underlying skin layers, but bacteria can also affect muscles and become prone to fatal bacterial infection. Due to pain, the dog can be easily seen scratching the wounds, resulting in worse conditions.

Pressure sores occur in stages and thus can be avoided. At first, the skin only gets red with no visible sores. Then gradually, the skin color changes and becomes darker; at this point, dog is losing hair and suffering from itching due to blisters. Then a deep wound is formed. It will first reveal the fat layer and then probably the muscular layer, completely damaging the skin. They can be avoided if one is aware of and can observe the early sign of pressure sores.

Another reason for the bald spot on the dog’s neck is immobilization. Because of the collar, many dogs don’t even move their neck, especially if they are new to collars. Immobilization can increase the pressure and result in the above conditions.

Tightly Fitted Collars

Misusing a shock collar can also result in your dog’s hair loss. If one fits the collar too tight, the dog will suffer extreme pressure on its neck and develop sores as described above. In addition, a tightly fitted collar can cause the dog to choke and might also damage some nerves. All these conditions can result in the dog losing hair.

Pressure sores can further result in infections that can lead to systemic disease (disease affecting multiple systems of the body). It has been clearly evidenced that systemic disease can also cause hair loss. The dog loses its fur, the area becomes swollen, and rashes and ulcers accompany the site. These kinds of diseases often damage the skin or the hair follicles (reservoirs from which hair grows – located in the inner skin layers). In such a case, the vet has to examine the underlying disease that will ultimately cure the dog’s hair loss.

Moreover, to avoid the condition beforehand, one must know what size of the collar will fit the dog properly, neither causing it to be too loose nor too tight.

Presence of Prongs

A typical shock collar has two sharp metal prongs placed against the dog’s neck. Originally their function is to form contact points with the skin and deliver the shock to the body. Wearing such a collar for short periods of time is perfectly safe. However, giving the dog’s skin a break from time to time is extremely important. If the dog is forced to wear the collar and bear the prongs for long periods, they penetrate to a small extent into the skin. Not only do they cause pain but also result in hair loss. Furthermore, the dog perceives it as a punishment, and the collar ends up being associated with negative reinforcement. As a result, the dog might suffer from pain-based anxiety, aggression, and depression.

So, in order to avoid the metallic prongs from harming the dog, one must know the timing for which the dog can tolerate the collar easily. During the day, don’t make the dog wear the collar for more than 8 to 10 hours. A training session is probably not going to last more than this. Here another point arises that making a dog wear a training collar outside the training session is a wrong practice too. A good veterinarian and a trainer advise the same.

Hair Loss Due to Other Collars

In the light of the above discussion, prong collars can result in the dog’s hair loss. Besides these, flea or tick collars help prevent ticks and fleas from harming the dog’s body. These tick collars have certain anti-flea or anti-tick chemicals stored in them. The collar lasts a few months, and during this time, it releases the chemicals slowly that wet the dog’s skin and fur to prevent fleas from attacking. Unfortunately, when some chemists watch over these chemicals, they found the residues of some pesticides that have been labeled as dangerous for human and animal health.

The data collected till now shows that these chemicals can cause allergies in dogs. The major drawbacks of which are loss of hair (not only from the neck but also from other parts of the dog’s skin), watery eyes, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, itching, inflammation, rashes, difficulty in breathing, lethargy, and eventually death. The allergic reaction is the result of the immune system’s reaction. The dog might lick off these chemicals from their body, or they can enter through another way; the immune system has to protect the body from the harmful effect and reacts in response resulting in worse body condition. These chemicals have also been found to harm the children that played with the dogs wearing these flea collars. So one must choose safe alternatives like shampoo or spray to save the dogs from any sort of health hazard.

Other Reasons for Hair Loss

Other than improper use of shock collars, there are many other reasons that can lead to the dog’s hair loss. Some of these major reasons are discussed below:

Allergic Reactions

Different dogs are sensitive to different things and become allergic to them when they cross the tolerable limits. The allergic reactions can result from certain foods or environmental conditions that dogs are not used to. Though losing hair is a common sign of allergies, dogs are allowed to lose only some of the hair. Losing too much hair can be an indication of a severe health condition that needs to be checked on as soon as possible.

Symptoms include decreasing the fur thickness, which gradually converts into bald spots. The dog’s neck and all body parts are equally prone to hair loss due to allergies. In fact, hair loss mostly starts from the hind portion of the body that gradually reaches the trunk of the body. Next, dogs begin scratching their raw skin, which is followed by excessive licking. Finally, the area becomes red due to irritation.

Dogs are allergic to different foods like wheat, dairy, meat, soy, eggs, and many more. Dogs are also allergic to pollens. Many other environmental factors like pests and insects can also trigger allergic reactions in dogs. If you have identified any sign of allergies in your dog, visit the vet to determine the underlying cause and try to change their diet and keep their environment hygienic.

Seasonal Shedding

Almost all dogs tend to shed their fur seasonally. Some of them shed more while some shed less. It depends on the breed and the type of furry coat they have. Some breeds have a single coat and tend to shed less in contrast to the dogs with a double coat. The double coat is denser, and the dog tends to lose more hair.

Similarly, shedding also depends on the dog’s hair length. Dogs with small hair shed more frequently as the coat is ever-growing. While on the other hand, dogs with long hair shed less. Dogs having medium-sized hair also shed less. Not to forget the hair texture, silky smooth hair is supposed to be shed more frequently than curly hair.

Most of the time, dogs shed in the Spring and autumn seasons. At the start of the autumn, they lose all their weak old hair during the shedding process so that they can build a better and stronger coat to keep them warm through the winters. At the start of the Spring, they lose their heavy coats to regulate their body temperature during the hot weather ahead. In both scenarios, dogs are meant to shed an adequate amount of their fur. As it is a natural process, there is nothing to worry about. But if a dog loses too much of its hair, it’s time to get treated by a veterinarian.

In order to avoid excessive shedding in dogs, brush them regularly and help them in grooming.

Mange

Mange is the name of the skin disease caused by mites. Mange is a French word that means “the itch,” representing the primary symptom of the disease. Two different species of mites cause two types of mange. Both affect the dog to a different extent. The first type, called Sarcoptic mange, also called scabies, is caused by Sarcoptes scabiei. This species of parasite is highly contagious and can be transmitted from one dog to another. Parts of the skin attacked by the parasite turns red. There is an excessive loss of hair with extreme itching. Chances for bacterial and fungal infections increase. Severe cases lead to skin becoming thick and the inflammation of lymph nodes. Swollen lymph nodes are the sign of immune system activation in response to the parasite.

The second type, called demodectic mange, is caused by Demodex canis. They are not much contagious as they are part of the normal flora of the canine body. Dogs do inherit these parasites from their mother during birth, and the immune system is responsible for keeping their population in check. But if the parasite gets favorable conditions to multiply rapidly, it can cause excessive hair loss with localized redness, inflammation, and skin scaling.

You might think that the dog’s collar is causing all this hair loss, while he might suffer from skin disease. Besides, the dog’s neck, chest, belly, elbows, ears, hocks, and many other body parts are at risk of infection. The condition is both treatable and avoidable, so better visit the dog in case you observe bald spots accompanied by redness and itching in dogs.

Infections

Besides mange that is caused by mites, many other worse infections have been observed in dogs that cause excessive hair loss. The most common is ringworm infection. It is a skin disease caused by a fungus. The fungus affects the dogs’ superficial skin layers (not necessarily in a ring shape – that’s a misconception) and causes redness and lesions filled with pus. These lesions often result in itching, causing inflammation as well. In addition, the fungus attacks the hair follicles, which weakens the hair shaft causing it to break off easily. If one takes the dog to the vet and helps him seek treatment, hair starts growing back, and lesions heal. However, beware before handling the dog, the fungus and its infection are transmittable and can affect you as well.

Bacterial infection is another major reason for dogs to lose their hair. Several species of bacteria cause pyoderma, which can be both superficial or deep. Hair loss is accompanied by redness and the release of pus from wounds. They often cause irritation, and the dog ends up scratching the wounds, not letting them heal.

Leishmania is a parasite that causes leishmaniasis and is often carried to dogs by sand flies. The clinical sign of the disease includes the skin becoming dull and brittle with excessive hair loss. This disease needs to be examined by a vet as soon as possible. Otherwise, the parasite can affect blood cells resulting in worse medical conditions.

Stress

If your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, or he is subjected to a new environment with new people, or if you have brought a new pet home, you are definitely going to notice some signs of hair loss in the pet. The reason why it happens is stress or anxiety. Different stressful situations may cause the dog to lose hair temporarily. However, if the stress is not that severe or long-term, your dog’s hair will regrow once he becomes calm. You don’t need to worry about your dog’s hair loss in such a situation. Instead, you must pay attention to the reasons behind the stress and find ways how you can soothe your dog. Once the underlying problem has been solved, the problem of hair loss will be solved on its own.

The obvious indication of stress is when your dog begins to shed his fur suddenly, even when he’s not suffering from any medical condition. In addition, loud noises, crowds of people, and sometimes jealousy towards other pets and individuals can make your dog depressed. In order to appease himself, the dog will engage in different self-soothing actions like scratching or licking his skin, especially his paws and tail. The area of skin where they lick or scratch too often will result in bald patches due to hair loss. If your dog is stressed due to some temporary reasons, you can help him relax by using pheromones spray or simply by petting him. But, if his stress doesn’t go away after the time being, you should consult a veterinarian, particularly a dog behaviorist.

Hormonal Imbalance

Every dog of almost every breed is prone to getting sick due to hormonal imbalance at a certain stage of his life. Over or under-production of different hormones and many other factors like the formation of tumors in hormonal glands can lead to hormone-related disorders. Hair loss is one of the major symptoms of such a disease. But it does not mean that only hair loss is the symptom of hormonal imbalance; other symptoms of the certain disease must accompany.

Hypothyroidism is a commonly occurring disorder in dogs. When the thyroid gland stops functioning normally, either due to a tumor or the shrinkage of the gland, there is a decreased production of thyroxine hormone. This hormone is responsible for maintaining the metabolism; its underproduction can cause several issues, including losing hair, decreased appetite, weight loss, ear infections, lethargy, and decreased heart rate. Hypoadrenocorticism, also called Addison’s disease, is caused by the destruction of the adrenal gland and lower hormone production. An opposite situation is observed in hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), where there is increased production of hormones by these glands. Addison’s disease can be observed after the treatment of Cushing’s disease if the medication has heavily suppressed the hormone formation. Thinning hair and bald patches are common signs of these diseases. However, these diseases are accompanied by other major issues as well.

Above mentioned diseases or tumors can trigger the overproduction of sex hormones in dogs. Elevated levels of sex hormones have also been found to cause hair loss.

Inheritance

Here goes the genetics causing the dog to become bald in several areas of his body. Medically the condition is called alopecia. Different underlying reasons include albinism, muscle inflammation, skin rashes, breed disposition, deficiency of proteins, and hypotrichosis (loss of hair by birth or a few months after birth).

Depending on the condition, the dog can lose hair in different amounts in different parts of the body. For instance, the disease affects ear flaps in pineal alopecia. There is also pattern baldness in which dogs initially lose some patches of hair when they are 6 months of age. However, by the time they hit their first birthday, they have lost almost all the hair from their body. Sometimes, alopecia occurs in the parts of the body that have been treated surgically, and sometimes they develop the condition after having a vaccination, especially for rabies.

The signs of genetic hair loss are different than other conditions leading to the same consequences. Often the coat grows grey in color, and melanoma (a tumor of melanocytes – pigment-producing cells of the skin) is formed. In addition, hair becomes dull, and the skin thickens due to the excessive keratin production by the hair follicles.

Genetic conditions often don’t have a permanent treatment, and most of them cannot be prevented. The same is the case with alopecia. Still visit the vet to prevent any sort of skin infection, and importantly, a dog collar has nothing to do with genetic hair loss.

Treatment of Hair Loss

Treatment of hair loss depends on the underlying reason. For example, if the dog loses hair due to pressure sores caused by the shock collar, one must clean the dog’s neck regularly and apply ointments to help the sores heal. If the dog loses hair due to microorganisms, apply antifungal creams to treat ringworm infection and antibiotic ointments to treat bacterial infections. Applying the ointment at the early stage of the infection can help it from penetrating into the deeper skin layers. If the dog has got some serious skin disorders, steroids are used as a treatment.

To prevent allergic reactions, dogs are administered immunotherapy either orally or via injections to boost their immune system and repress the severe reactions. A hypoallergenic diet is also considered a treatment. Medical shampoos and sprays are used to treat infections like mange. If there are too many fleas near your house, a veterinarian may advise spraying the entire house to keep both you and your dog safe. To treat the dry skin, a vet may add some supplements to the dog’s diet, like fish oil, Omega 3s, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E. Similarly, if a certain hormonal imbalance is diagnosed, the dog should be administered hormone therapy. Finally, if the dog is diagnosed with tumors, a vet’s surgery might be recommended, which is important not only to save his hair but also his life.

There is no permanent remedy for genetic hair loss and seasonal shedding.

How to Prevent Hair Loss in Dogs?

In order to prevent hair loss due to the dog collar, one can follow the following tips:

Know the Proper Use of the Collar

To avoid hair loss from a shock collar, one must know the proper use of it. The first measure that you will take in this regard is the selection of the right collar for your dog. Prefer a trusted brand instead of a local store. It might turn out to be expensive, but the quality will be worth it for the dog’s health. Before starting any training process, make sure the collar is neither too loose nor too tight. The rule of thumb is to leave a space of two fingers between the dog’s neck and the collar. For further tips on fitting the dog collar in a correct manner, you can binge-watch some videos over the internet or seek help from a professional.

Let your dog become used to it. Make him wear the collar for some time without giving him a shock so that he can trust it. Don’t leave the collar on the dog’s neck for more than 8 to 10 hours. Within these training hours, give him breaks if possible. Never ever make the dogs wear it when you are not training them. Shock collars do have a vibration feature that is often preceded by shock. Take benefit of this feature instead of directly giving him a shock.

Choose the Right Material

The material from which the collar is made matters a lot. Usually, the collars are made of leather, and many dogs are allergic to them. Tannic acids and other substances are used to soften the leather and to make it long-lasting. Unfortunately, many dogs turn out to have allergies to these. Besides these, many dogs have allergies to certain fabric materials, including nylon, wool, cotton, and some synthetic fibers.

These dogs need to be taken extra care of because leather and fabric are the things that we and our dogs have normal contact with. Instead of trying to treat the dog by yourself, let a veterinarian examine him and advise the right material for your dog’s safety.

Clean the Dog’s Neck Regularly

Each time after taking off the shock collar, clean the dog’s neck. First, simply wash with clean water. Ensure the water temperature is neither too high nor too low. Then apply a chemical-free shampoo so that the dog does not suffer any unwanted side effects. If the dog has lost his hair and you are going to wash the raw skin, use a bar of soap with antibacterial properties. Avoid over-washing. Now it’s time to dry the wet area. Air drying is not a good idea as some underlying hair can remain wet, making a favorable environment for fungus to grow. Instead, use an absorber towel to get rid of excessive moisture. Change the towel side and repeat until you realize a sufficient amount of moisture has been reduced.

To ensure the dog fur has been properly dried, use a hairdryer. Don’t use it right away as many dogs are afraid of its sound. Instead, use it at its lowest setting and keep it at a distance. Keep the hairdryer in motion, as constantly drying the same portion can make it prone to damage. Finally, brush the hair to give the dog a more neat and tidy look. If you are going to apply any ointment for infections, use it after this washing process.

Some Frequently Asked Questions:

Are Some Dog Breeds More Prone to Hair Loss?

Hair loss is affected by both the dog’s individual personality and the dog’s breed. Individually a dog might be more allergic to a certain food or a certain thing that triggers hair loss in him. One might have more sensitive skin than the other dog. It can be observed within the same species. But dog breeds do matter a lot. For instance:

  • Italian Greyhounds, Dachshunds, Whippets, Boston Terriers, and Chihuahuas are more prone to pattern baldness and pineal alopecia. Whereas Boxers, Manchester Terriers, and Greyhounds are more prone to pattern baldness only.
  • Siberian huskies, Keeshonds, Chowchows, Labrador Retriever, Samoyeds, German Shepherds, and Alaskan Malamutes often suffer post-clipping alopecia.
  • Post-injection alopecia is common in Poodles, Silky, Yorkshire, Bichon Frises, and Shih-Tzus.
  • Color dilution alopecia is most commonly observed in Doberman. Still, it is also observed in Salukis, Bernese Mountain dogs, Great Dane, Chowchows, Chihuahuas, Irish Setter, Whippet, Yorkshire Terrier, Standard Poodle, Dachshund, Miniature Pinscher, Schipperke, and Shetland Sheepdog.

Do Dogs Enjoy Wearing Collars?

Whether the dog enjoys wearing a collar or not depends entirely on how you treat them when they are wearing the collar. For example, if you associate the collar with positive reinforcement, the dog will obviously enjoy it. On the other hand, if the collar is frequently associated with punishments, your dog will try all the best possible ways to evade it. Take an example of dog training using collars in which the dog gets treats every time he follows a command. As all dogs are usually fond of treats and food, the only sight of the collar will make the dog guess that a treat is on its way. He’ll surely be excited.

On the other hand, aversive collars that often employ unpleasant stimuli become a thorn in the dog’s side, and the dogs begin to evade such collars. For example, a bark collar that goes off buzzing or shocking the dog every time it detects barking. If a dog comes to realize that the unpleasant sensation of buzz or shock upon barking is somehow related to the collar he’s wearing, he’ll run away just at the sight of the collar. Similarly, the prong collars or tick collars that use aversive stimuli may induce resistance in dogs when you try to make them wear these.

Are Harnesses Better Than Collars?

A harness seems a safer option. Many vets recommend them, but they have both pros and cons. The major reason that makes it preferable over a collar is that it won’t put pressure on the neck alone. Instead, it distributes the pressure over some body parts, including the chest, shoulders, and upper back, which makes it safe for dogs. With that being said, there is no risk of pressure soreness, no fear of tracheal collapse, no injuries to the esophagus and other internal organs, no choking hazards, and no hair loss. Dogs can easily slip off through the collars, especially the ones with smaller necks, but harnesses won’t let them do so. They surround the body in such a way that a dog can never escape until or unless the owners let him escape by his will.

Nothing is perfect, and neither is a dog harness. It also has got some downsides. For instance, they take longer to fasten as compared to a dog collar. Also, one can check the collar tightness and loosen it up to two fingers easily, but that’s not possible while using a harness, so a harness tends to be a bit uncomfortable. Moreover, they are bulkier in size and are disliked by many dogs. Finally, they can be a problem when taking the dogs out in public as they don’t have any space to attach identification cards.

But still, they are preferred over dog collars as they don’t pose health hazards.

Which Type of Harness is Safe for Dogs?

Harnesses come in different types. The most basic is the back clip harness, as it has rings and leash clips on the top of the dog’s back. It is effective only if the dog has loose leash training. In case you want to give the dog leash training, front-clip harnesses are for you. Their ring and space for leash attachment are located on the chest side. They help the dog in reducing the pulling and train them to walk on a leash. Tightening harnesses are also available that tighten just like a collar when the dog pulls on the leash. These tend to cause injuries. Similarly, some harnesses have ornamental purposes only. They are used just for fashion.

The type of harness that you will opt for your dog depends on whether you want to train them or not.

Can a Harness Be Left on Dogs for Long Hours?

Though a harness turns out to be a relatively safe training method, it cannot be left on dogs all day long. There is nothing wrong in leaving them on dogs longer than the collars are advised, but dogs need a break from harnesses too. As described above, they are a bit uncomfortable, so they can cause pressure sores if left on for too long. The best practice is to take them off, at least when the dog is sleeping, so that they will experience a bit of freedom and have a comfy sleep. It is necessary during the Summers, especially as it can raise the body temperature.

Moreover, a dog must never be left unsupervised with a harness on as he can injure himself while trying to escape it. Some puppies have been found chewing their harness, which is a bad practice. The material of the harness is not safe for ingestion. It can cause intestinal blockage.

Furthermore, leaving the harness on a dog with long fur can tangle his fur, which later causes pain when the harness is removed, or the fur is brushed. If the harness gets wet accidentally, take it off immediately, and dry both the dog’s fur and the harness before putting it on again.

Conclusion

If not used properly, shock collars can cause hair loss in dogs. The major reasons behind the hair loss are an extremely tight collar, a collar of bad quality that is brought from a local store, and leaving the collar on the dog for long periods of time. All these conditions result in pressure sores that can make the dog bald from certain areas of the body. Also, shock collars have metallic prongs on the inner side of the collar that rest against the dog’s neck and cause injuries and hair loss.

If you observe baldness in your dog, immediately take him to a veterinarian, as the collar might not be the reason behind your dog’s baldness. Some other reasons that cause hair loss in dogs such as bacterial and fungal infections, mange, and hormonal imbalance. Dogs are often allergic to food, environment, and other factors; allergic reactions can also trigger hair loss in them. Almost all the dogs observe seasonal shedding, and some have baldness in their DNA. Similarly, some breeds are more prone to hair loss. Each time a dog loses his hair, it cannot be blamed on shock collars solely. Better let a vet diagnose the underlying problem.

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