Can Shock Collars Cause Seizures?

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Several different kinds of pet training collars are available in various forms and sizes. These can be made to meet the various training needs of our cats and dogs. The training collars are an excellent tool for whipping your furry friends into shape, whether for obedience training, avoiding excessive barking in dogs or growling in cats, or helping them learn their boundaries.

A great variety of canine collars are also available online in the market. Most of these have been made especially for the training of pet dogs. Since each collar has been designed in a different way, the principle by which it works to train your dog may be different from that of others. For example, some use negative reinforcement, while others are based on positive punishment. Because many training collars, for example, choke collars and prong collars, use aversive training methods, not all of them are considered humane for your pet dogs.

Moreover, pet owners can misuse any dog collar by implementing poor wearing and training practices. If not used properly, even flat collars might strangle your dog. Dogs can develop despair and fear due to these issues, which can lead to aggression in them. Aversive collars can sometimes cause physical injury to your pet if used incorrectly or frequently.

What Are Shock Collars?

The E-collar or electronic collar are the other names for a shock collar. It is an electrically operated remote-controlled collar that’s made up of two parts: a receiver and a transmitter. A shock collar provides a simple static electric shock to your dog via the remote control’s transmitter and the collar’s receiver.

On pressing the button, the remote control transmitter sends an electrical signal toward the dog wearing the E-collar. The receiver in the collar around your dog’s neck receives the electrical impulse, which is conducted through the metal contact points on the collar to the dog’s neck skin. The receptors on the dog’s body detect the electric signal, which is perceived as a minor tickling sensation. This sensation progresses slowly from the dog’s neck towards the dog’s body. The intensity of this electrical impulse is usually adjustable and can be changed to different levels of stimulation, ranging from a mild jab to a severe shock.

The Reaction of Dogs to Shock Collars?

Shock collars are the remote training collars that use the positive punishment training method the same way as other aversive collars such as choke collars and prong collars do. The dog owner or trainer will press the button on the remote control whenever the dog tries to show undesirable behavior. The dog will experience electrical shock, which is more like a punishment for him. The unpleasant sensation of shock will gradually make him quit his bad behavior.

The psychology behind this training method is just the same as when a teacher assigns a student to repeat an assignment numerous times after he forgets to complete it once. The punishment will undoubtedly teach the student a lesson, and he will never ignore his task again. However, because an electric collar uses the same punishment approach as a choke collar or prong collar, it can trigger aggressive behavior in dogs if used repeatedly. This aggression is essentially a reflection of the dogs’ discomfort and fear due to the shock.

Side Effects of Shock Collars on the Dog’s Health

Many side effects are associated with the misuse or overuse of dog shock collars. Although these collars are a critical training tool for many dogs, such as service dogs, their inappropriate use can cause serious problems in them. Experts recommend stimulating the collar 3-5 times in each training session as per safety measures. Shock collars may deliver an electrical stimulation of a few milliamperes to several hundred milliamperes every time you press the button. Suppose you are using these collars at a higher current intensity, exceeding the frequency of use than the recommended one, or exposing your dog to the stimulus for longer. In that case, the dog may suffer psychological damage or mental trauma. As a stress response, the dog’s system will release adrenaline rapidly. As a result, it results in a sudden increase in blood pressure which may damage his brain and eyes.

If the dog is exposed to the collar for longer periods, he may develop contact allergies, skin irritation, and sores. The main concern is the overuse of electrical stimuli for training purposes. Repeated shocks during training can disturb the normal stimulation of the dog’s heart and may alter his heart and respiration rate. Stress due to the repeated uncomfortable sensations can also cause other problems like gastrointestinal disorders, neurological problems, kidney disease, hormonal disturbance, and long-term urinary problems. An emotionally disturbed dog will develop into a physically ill canine over time.

What Do You Mean by a Seizure?

To put it simply, a seizure is an abnormality in muscular activity or movement patterns, attitudes, thoughts, or feelings that occurs for a brief period. An uncontrollable electrical disruption characterizes it among the brain’s cells, called neurons. Muscle stiffness and twitching are common symptoms in dogs. They might also show signs of limping. This state occurs in brief bursts that might last a few seconds to a minute. A dog seizure lasting for two to five minutes is a medical emergency. In this case, the pet owners should contact their veterinarian as soon as possible.

Seizures aren’t all the same. These are most commonly associated with any long-term health problem in dogs, such as epilepsy, although other factors can also cause them. For example, fever caused by a severe viral infection might lead to convulsions and organ failure. Seizures of this type are known as febrile seizures. On the other hand, the seizures which are an outcome of toxicity or poisoning are called reactive seizures. During seizure episodes, the dog may or may not lose consciousness completely.

Can Shock Collars Cause Seizures?

There has been a lot of debate regarding this question. Some experts say it is possible, while others consider it just absurd. Well, it is determined by a number of factors. In general, it is perfectly safe and acceptable if a skilled trainer uses shock collars for dog training with caution. The long-term health problem of seizures can result only if the collar is misused or used for extended periods. Ill-suited training methods, high-intensity electrical shocks, extended exposure to electrical stimulation, and repeated stimulation are likely to induce seizures and cause severe psychological damage to most dogs.

Some people claim that the shock sensation is striking rather than painful, but the fact is that we are just unaware of its potency. The only minor stimulus for us may be serious for the pets. Electric shock can stun your dog more than any other acceptable punishment you could use. If the dog doesn’t return to its normal situation after being stimulated by the shock, it is more likely to develop neurological damage and seizures. However, some dogs are more tolerant than others and may not develop seizures; for example, Labrador retrievers and Golden retrievers are more resistant to shock collars.

What Is an Electric Fence?

An electric fence or invisible fence is the pet containment system that a dog owner uses to prevent his dog from crossing a certain boundary, whether in his house or backyard. It works by embedding a wire underground just along the boundary of the backyard. The wire is placed there similarly to how a regular fence would be installed around your backyard. The other part of an invisible fence is the E-collar that comes with it. This special E-collar works exactly like ordinary shock collars. The underground wire of the invisible fence is synchronized with the collar on the dog’s neck. So whenever the dog tries to cross the invisible boundary of the yard, he will experience an electric shock. The collar also makes a sound before the shock to warn the dog.

Your dogs will gradually learn to respect the limits and boundaries you have set for them with the help of this invisible fence. Many trainers utilize these containment systems for practical off-leash training of their pets. Unfortunately, like other shock collars, invisible fences use a positive punishment approach to training. As a result, many organizations and pet specialists do not consider these dog training methods to be humane.

Are Invisible Fences Bad for Dogs?

The principle on which an invisible fence works is positive punishment. In operant conditioning, positive discipline is defined as “adding a punishment to induce a positive response in dogs.” The fence employs a ‘shock’ to get dogs to react in the way one wants. Dogs may become aggressive and depressed as a result of this treatment. Hence, before you start training your furry friend with an invisible fence, it is important to consider its harm to the dog’s health and its general disadvantages.

Dogs are notoriously slow to adapt to new situations. Consider the area where he used to roam freely before is now a ‘no entry zone’ for him. Above all, every time he tries to leave the place, he is subjected to a shock. Your dog will not be able to accept this reality and will end up being confused, anxious and depressed. The dog will begin to avoid going outside due to this fear. He will confine himself to only one place and may refuse to come out even when you ask him to.

Some canines are more resistant to electric shocks than others and may not respond positively to contact with an invisible fence. Collars frequently provide an electric stimulation detected by the dogs’ internal organs every time they pass by the boundary. In such circumstances, repeated stimulation may cause cardiac fibrillation, neurological issues, and changes in the dog’s heart and respiration rate. Moreover, the dog may not be able to cross the boundaries; wild animals, cats, and other dogs can freely enter the yard and may interact aggressively with your pet. When he sees other animals or pets roaming freely, he will undoubtedly be depressed.

Can Invisible Fences Cause Seizures?

People often ask us if an electric fence can cause seizures in dogs. Just like the case with shock collars, it is decided based on a number of factors:

  • The intensity of electric shock; the higher power of the shock is, the more prone the dog is to undergo severe psychological damage and seizures.
  • Frequency of use; since the invisible fence is an automatic detection system and is not under the owner’s control, the dog is more vulnerable to repeated exposure to electric shocks every time he tries to cross the limits. A higher frequency of exposure will cause more harm to his nervous system.
  • Duration of use; If a dog is exposed to an invisible fence for an extended period without being protected, he may experience seizures.
  • The dog’s mental health; if the dog is already suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after an abuse, brain damage or stroke, or specific other neurological issues, invisible fences will certainly trigger seizures in him.
  • Hypersensitivity in dogs; some dog breeds are more sensitive to pain or shock than others. For example, Labrador retrievers and Golden retrievers are the most challenging dog breeds that show greater tolerance for pain. Generally, the more tolerant the dog is, the lesser is the risk of seizures in him.
  • Dog’s behavior; usually, invisible fences cause seizures more rapidly in aggressive dogs.

What Other Types of Collars Cause Seizures in Dogs?

Aside from an E-collar or an electric fence, other sorts of dog collars might cause seizures in our four-legged companions if they are not used properly. For example, the FDA reports that certain flea and tick collars contain Isoxazoline products, leading to adverse reactions to dogs’ nervous systems, resulting in seizures, tremors, and ataxia. These chemicals are more potent to cause seizures in a dog who already has a history of seizure activity. The use of such products is directly under the observation of the FDA, which is spreading awareness among individuals to report any adverse effects of the tick and collar products.

Seresto collars are also flea and tick collars sold under the brand name. These collars contain ingredients flumethrin and imidacloprid which are harmful to pets and cause seizures and nerve damage. According to a story broadcasted by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, there were 75000 cases of people and pets harmed by these collars, with almost 1700 related pet deaths. EPA is also seeking the public’s comments to file a petition against the use of these collars.

Bark collars and vibrating collars do not cause seizures in dogs as they neither use electric shock nor any harmful chemicals. However, since these collars also employ negative reinforcement, their overuse should be avoided as much as possible. The use of prong collars and choke chain collars should also be avoided since they use aversive training methods. These collars should be kept a million miles away from cute young puppies. Although they may cause neck injuries and harm a dog’s throat, there’s also a possibility of the dog going into depression due to the overuse of these collars. The use of head halters may also seem perfectly safe to you, but if worn in the wrong way, these collars can exert pressure on the dog’s neck and may alter his heart and respiration rate.

What Is Epilepsy in Dogs?

Epilepsy is a heterogeneous neurological illness in dogs. Their brain function becomes disordered or abnormal, resulting in recurrent seizures or episodes of odd behavior, emotional responses, tremors, and occasionally loss of consciousness. Seizures are characterized by a burst of uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain that occurs suddenly. Epilepsy is the most frequent brain disorder in dogs, affecting about 0.75 percent (1 out of every 130 dogs) of the world’s dog populations.

The symptoms of epilepsy may vary depending on whether the dog is suffering from focal seizures, which affect only a part of the brain, or generalized seizures that affect the whole brain. The common symptoms of generalized seizures include loss of consciousness, salivation, stiffening and jerking of muscles, tremors, and involuntary defecation or urination. The symptoms of focal seizures, on the other hand, would vary depending on which portion of the brain is affected by the electrical disturbance. Usually, the common signs of epilepsy observed in most cases are muscle twitching, spasmodic contractions in muscles of one side of the body, dilation of pupils, salivation, vomiting, and head shaking. After the episode, the dog will show specific changes in its normal behavior. For example, you will notice your dog suffering from anxiety, turmoil, and fear.

What Causes Epilepsy in Dogs?

Although determining the cause of epilepsy in dogs is not always feasible, canine epilepsies can be commonly divided into one of the three groups depending on the causation of the disease. These include structural epilepsy, idiopathic epilepsy, and reactive seizures.

The cause of idiopathic epilepsy is unknown. Some animal behavior scientists believe that idiopathic epilepsy is in dogs’ genes. However, it is also believed to be a response to environmental stimuli or defective metabolism. Young puppies are more likely to have this form of epilepsy. In some dog breeds, it is found to be inherited in nature.

Any problem in the dog’s brain might induce structural epilepsy. For example, it can happen due to a brain stroke, encephalitis, a head injury, bleeding, a neurodegenerative disorder, a central nervous system infection, PTSD, or storage diseases. Whatever the cause is, this type of epilepsy is directly associated with the brain’s structure.

Although a reactive seizure is not technically a type of epilepsy, it is generally acknowledged as one. This is because the symptoms of reactive seizures are very similar to those of any other type of epilepsy. Reactive seizures are a dog’s ‘reaction’ to something like food or a metabolic abnormality. It’s just there for a short time.

Can You Use a Shock Collar on a Dog With Epilepsy?

No!! Either a shock collar or an electric fence, E-collars should never be used to train an epileptic dog. Since the brain of an epileptic dog is already experiencing some abnormal electric activity, an external electrical stimulation can add to the severity of seizures. In addition, spasmodic muscle contractions and tremors may progress to the respiratory and circulatory system and can ultimately be fatal for him.

On the other hand, for those dogs with some underlying brain issues but no apparent symptoms of epilepsy, stimulation from an electric shock collar can induce reactive seizures in such dogs. Although these types of seizures are temporary, the frequent use of such types of electric devices with your dog can harm your pet’s health and may hinder its growth.

How Would You Know if Your Dog Is Having Seizures?

It’s really important to learn how your dog suffers from seizures if you want to be careful about using shock collars in the future. Symptoms of epilepsy or seizures may vary depending on the breed and size of your dog. However, some common symptoms found in all epileptic dogs include twitches, stiffening of muscles, loss of coordination, unconsciousness, and drooling. Similar symptoms also appear when a dog undergoes seizures due to food poisoning.

During seizure episodes of epilepsy, the dog can sometimes urinate or defecate. He may stomp to the side and make paddling movements with his limbs. After seizures, your dog will become dizzy, shaky, or momentarily blind due to continuous tremors. He may begin to run around in circles and collide with surrounding objects.

Factors Leading to Seizures in Dogs

Seizures in dogs are multifactorial as they can occur due to a number of different causes. These causes may be nutritional, pathogenic, or developmental. Although seizures may also be due to an unknown reason, they occur randomly. These types of seizures are called idiopathic seizures. Idiopathic epilepsy is more common in Beagles, German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, etc.

Here are some commonly known causes that are likely to trigger seizures in dogs:

  • Poisoning due to certain foods, the most common examples of which are chocolate poisoning, xylitol poisoning, and sodium ion poisoning
  • Liver dysfunction or a kidney disease resulting in the retention of nitrogenous wastes and metabolites within the body
  • Imbalance of electrolytes in the blood or a pH imbalance of body fluids
  • Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) or brain cancer
  • Long term urinary problems or urinary tract infections
  • Strokes or injuries, especially to the brain and spinal cord
  • Abuse or poor training practices
  • Frequent electric stimulation from external sources, as the case with E collars

Alternatives to a Shock Collar

Flat collars should be used for leash training purposes. For off-leash training, the better and safer option is the use of vibration collars which employ a slight buzz instead of an electric shock to prevent seizures in dogs. The best solution is the adoption of safe practices during the use of a collar or a leash while training your pet.

Seizure Prevention Using the Best Leash and Collar Practices

Pet owners must adopt safe practices for training if they want their dogs to remain healthy physically and mentally. The best solution to prevent neurological problems like seizures in dogs is to train your dogs through positive reinforcement methods. According to experts, dogs learn more quickly from rewards than from punishments. One such safest option is clicker training which is based entirely on rewards. We often say that ‘the easiest way to train your dog is to avoid doing everything you want your pet not to do because he learns from YOU.’

Avoid aversive methods of training which instill nothing but fear in dogs. The use of aversive collars like prong collars and choke collars should be avoided. Training puppies require more care as they are extremely sensitive. While using dog shock collars for training, begin with negligible levels of shock and don’t exceed the dog’s tolerance. Don’t stimulate an electric collar more than five times in each training session. Never use an electric fence or shock collars for epileptic dogs. Go for the safe wearing practices as a poorly worn collar can also harm the dog’s throat.

Like flea and tick collars, some other collars can no doubt trigger seizures in your dog; their use can not be eliminated. It is highly possible that infestations from the insects will harm your pet even more, and you will always be hesitant to take your pup out for a walk. In such a case, you can go for the dog-safe options after checking the ingredients thoroughly. Last but not least! Adopt careful feeding practices to avoid seizures due to food poisoning. This is not related to the collars, though!

Conclusion

If used correctly, shock collars don’t cause seizures as they use simple static electric shock. Using dog shock collars excessively or inappropriately may trigger seizures in puppies, sensitive dogs, or aggressive dogs. A dog with an underlying brain issue may suffer from reactive seizures. Dogs with epilepsy should never be trained through shock collars as they can worsen the seizures and can be fatal. One must adopt safe training practices to prevent seizures in pets.

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