In our last blog we talked about the problems that grass seeds and foxtails can cause and the potential injuries that can occur from them. This time we are going to talk about chest injuries to dogs. We have seen some posts/articles on the internet about dogs that have suffered from chest injuries, mainly from sticks but there are other causes too, barbed wire, even bramble. Injuries are not just limited to the chest, but they are the most frequent. It is something that concerns us with our own dogs.
So you might ask what dog is likely to suffer a chest injury? Well obviously working dogs, especially Gundogs are probably most prone, but the reality is that any active dog, whether being worked or just walked in an area of woodland or thick cover can be susceptible to an injury, okay, so it is not common and we are not trying to scare people but, it can happen.
The reason we started to look into this subject is because we often spend time in such areas. When we are in Spain, the areas where the dogs are walked can be very precarious, it is mainly Pine woods and there is very thick cover, including bramble, gorse, and worst of all, Acacia. Acacia has very thick, (up to 3mm) thorns, they can be up to 10cm long, they are pretty nasty. You might say well why do you take the dogs there, the answer to that is that we are surrounded by it, where we have a house is surrounded for tens of kilometers of this terrain, you would have to drive a long way to find anything different, and 200km to find a beach. Having 2 Gundogs who are always actively picking up scents, hunting for quarry, they are always in the thick of it, and Cocoa works at 100mph all the time, sometimes with scant regard for her own safety!
So what's the solution?
Neoprene Dog Vests are the best solution we have come up with, they are not ideal and have their drawbacks, but they work the best for us, and we have tried lots of other potential solutions and none come close. We initially tried other types of clothing but they were nowhere near tough enough. So, we purchased a neoprene vest, one of the top brands in the UK, and we got Cocoa to test it out. Obviously it wasn't just about whether it prevented injury, it had to fit correctly, it had to stay fitted, it had to allow movement, it had to cover the right areas, and it needs to look good, (Cocoa is fashion conscious)!
Now we know that Neoprene Vests for Dogs were developed in the US and were developed for Duck Hunting, so essentially they are actually designed more for keeping a wet dog warm rather than protection, but they are also used for dogs that hunt hogs (boar), as they need the protection from potentially dangerous tusks. However, the vests do keep the dogs warm, and whilst that is fine in the Winter, it isn't good in Summer. So we found that the vest we initially tried was a good fit, it covered the right areas, it stayed on, but it did raise Cocoa's body temperature. But, to be honest it is too hot to walk dogs in Spain during the Summer heat anyway, during June, July & August the walks are always before 7am and after 8pm, when it is cooler, and they are relatively short and the dog's temperatures are monitored, so it isn't so much of a problem.
So we used the branded neoprene vest for a few weeks, but unfortunately the zip broke, the velcro alone couldn't keep the vest closed, so we modified it with a strap and buckle, but it wasn't the same and it couldn't keep the front tight enough to the chest, meaning it gaped open, potentially allowing entry from a stick/branch. Now that vest was not cheap, over £50, and it lasted a few weeks, so we were reluctant to buy another.
Hence, we have been developing our own for the last 8 months, we are currently on our 2nd prototype and we are relatively happy with it, it still needs a couple of small tweaks and then lots of testing, we want to ensure that they are much more durable than the ones currently available in the UK. Obviously we hope to market our vests and we hope they can be kept at a reasonable price. So for now here are just a few photos of Luca testing the latest version. Cocoa is wearing the 1st prototype, which hasn't been hemmed.
Hopefully by the end of the year we will be able to bring these to market, depending on how well received they are and how strong demand is.