The "Invisible" Boo Boo
Our baby boy!
In 2003, the family decided to get a dog when my youngest son was a baby. I spent weeks looking at newspaper ads and online searching for the perfect pet for my 4 boys. Then one day I stumbled upon the Humane Society webpage where we live and there he stood, proudly on display in the center of the page, a four month old Yellow Lab mix by the name of Morgan. Yes, Morgan. (as in Freeman)
His foster parents brought him by for a visit to see if he would be a fit for our family. We are fabulous, so, OF COURSE, he loved us. And it only took 1.3 seconds before we fell in love with him. The kids were upset as he drove away, not understanding that we had to make a decision, sign some paperwork and he would be back a few days later. One of the stipulations to adopting a Humane Society dog was having a fenced in yard, in which we did not have. So the research started again and we decided the most economical route was getting an underground or Invisible Fence. I had read all of the literature including any safety red flags. I worried the shock would hurt him, but worried more that in a matter of seconds living on the corner of a busy street, being hit by a car would hurt much worse.
The fence installation was on order and Morgan came to live with us just a week after meeting him for the first time. It was a unanimous vote to get rid of the name "Morgan". The boys felt it was too girly. So, being the sports nuts they are, decided on Striker (a soccer position for those that don't know the sport)
The invisible fence company installed our underground fence, set up flags and trained him. It took a bit longer than I had expected, but he caught on, finally, and we had a means of keeping him in the yard.
Then one day, a few years later, he figured out if he could get to top notch speed, the shock would be short lived and he'd be free.... free at last! We called the company to come out and make some adjustments. We changed out the batteries. We did all the things we could to keep him contained. But if you were a squirrel or a skateboarder or a UPS driver, you were enough temptation to endure the buzz. For the most part, he did well, but he had began running it on a semi regular basis. I decided to take his collar off for a while and control his yard time by being outside with him or leashing him.
I didn't realize how much freedom the invisible fence had not only given Striker, but given us as pet owners. It was so nice to be able to open the door and let him out to pee. Now we were resorting to "rock paper scissors", "Not it!" and "I did it last time" to decide who would venture out in the yard while he commenced with his business. Holy inconvenience. I quickly discovered the invisible fence made us lazy pet owners. But I digress.
About 4 weeks ago, we ordered a new battery for the collar and decided to give it a go once again. Lo and behold, it took one shock and he was reminded to back off Yoko Ono. Sweet!!! Freedom, once again for all of us.
Fast forward to about a week and a half ago. I came home from work to a smell that I will never ever forget as long as I live. It was lightyears beyond the reek of a wet dog. And it was originating from my sweet furry boy. I had no idea what it could be, but knew in my gut, it wasn't normal. That night he woke us 3 separate times which was totally unlike him. I gave him water, I gave him food, I even slept on the sofa in the living room to be near him, but nothing helped.
**WARNING** Graphic picture
The morning I took him to the vet was when I discovered where the smell was coming from. As I removed his shock collar, I discovered two very pronounced holes penetrating through his neck from the two metal shock probes on the underside of the collar. He had been bleeding and it had gotten infected, but because it was contained under the collar and he had so much fur underneath, we never saw it until the collar was off.
I rushed him immediately to the vet and broke down in the office feeling like the worst dog mommy ever. How could I not see this? How did I miss this? But the vet explained that, unfortunately, it was not the first case she'd seen. She suggested I call and complain to the fence company. They shaved the infected areas, cleaned him up, and started him on antibiotics. She sent us on our merry way assuring me that he would be fine. His diagnosis was an extreme case of "pressure necrosis".
I called the invisible fence company when I got home. They totally blew me off saying it was my fault, the collar must have been too tight, etc. Striker wore his shock collar for nearly 6 years with NO issues. Then 2 1/2 weeks into putting it back on after not wearing it, it penetrates his neck. While I worry that it may have been too tight, I checked it thoroughly when I put it back on him in August and it fit as it always had. I was more furious with the invisible fence company because NO ONE ever warned me that this could happen. They also said it was impossible for the probes to penetrate his neck. (insinuating that I lied) He had two pronounced holes. I saw them, the vet saw them.
Striker is on the road to recovery now, acting like his normal self chasing squirrels and barking viciously at the UPS man again. All is well in our world again, but I will say that I, doubtfully, will ever put a shock collar on him again. Our family may become pros at Rock Paper Scissors again with taking turns to let him out, but it's a small price to pay for our baby boy.
If You Must....
...get an invisible fence for your dog:
Take the collar off nightly or, at a minimum, once a week.
If you start to see hair loss or a rash on the neck, clean the area with warm water thoroughly and let it dry before putting the collar back on. If there is a rash, the vet may prescribe an ointment and ask that the collar stay off until it's gone.
Alternate the sides of the neck where the probes touch his/her skin so that they aren't always pushing on the same spot. One week, one side and the next on the other.
Make sure the collar is snug, but not so tight you can't get your fingers underneath the probes.
And if it so happens you have an outside dog and you forget to take the collar off on a regular basis, keep an eye out for a strong, almost metallic smell. I compared it to how awful my kids breath was when they would have strep throat.... times 10,000! It's infection and needs to be treated immediately.
Lastly, our cherished pets can't tell us when something is wrong, but we can listen to our gut when things don't seem "normal". It's always better to be safe than sorry.