A German shepherd dog (1 year of age) was presented for apparent incoordination and circling to the left. Four hours earlier, the dog had been disciplined by the owner by being suspended a few feet with a choke collar for nearly 60 seconds. The dog was returned to the ground when it panicked and ultimately lost consciousness. Neurologic examination revealed severe disorientation, left-sided pleurothotonus, and circling. The hopping reflex was reduced in all limbs, and the dog was blind (evidenced by a loss of menace response). Variable nystagmus and left-sided facial paralysis was present. Clinical signs were consistent with a multifocal brain injury. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan showed severe cerebral edema from ischemia. The dog was euthanized because of the severity of its injuries. The diagnosis was strangulation; necropsy was declined by the owner.
With punitive training methods using choke chains being repopularized (after falling out of favor more than 40 years ago) by a popular television dog trainer, it is not surprising that choke-chain related injuries are being reported. This author rarely sees dogs change behavior when choke chains are used. Chokers may tell the dog what behavior is not wanted, but not what behavior is. Unfortunately, convincing an owner who uses a choke or prong collar to switch to a safer training device (eg, headcollar [buygentleleader.com], no-pull harness) may necessitate some form of injury to their pet from choker misuse.—Sandra Sawchuk, DVM, MS
Severe brain damage after punitive training technique with a choke chain collar in a German shepherd dog. Grohmann K, Dickomeit MJ, Schmidt MJ, Kramer M. J VET BEHAV http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2013.01.002