Skip to content
Previous article
Now Reading:
The mysterious connection between your dog's neck and internal organ health

The mysterious connection between your dog's neck and internal organ health

Health and Longevity Course for Dogs             Chapter 10

I love how real-life situations bring me the ideas for each chapter of the Health and Longevity Course for Dogs

Just recently, I went for a dinner with a friend who asked me how life was when I lived in Europe, what the family structure was like and who is in charge in heterosexual marriages. 

I thought for a moment and remembered a saying that answered the question perfectly. In Europe, a man may be called the head of the family, but a woman is the neck that moves the head!  

The idea that ‘the neck moves the head’ definitely expresses the dynamics of an average European family very well. Women often enjoy a dominant position. They are the ‘generals,’ feminine yet strong, grounded and decisive. There may be some exceptions, but typically, when the matriarchs are in charge there is more love, peace and order in the family.

A story I recently heard confirms the above. Women from a Mexican village in a region with a very high crime rate one day decided enough was enough. They chased out the local drug lords, corrupt government officials and police to establish a local self-government that made their village the safest in the whole region. No drug lords, no corruption, just common-sense order. 

The neck is the key to your dog's strong health

Good health reminds me of a matriarchal family structure. Some people believe the brain and the head are the center of the body, but that is not exactly true. Let’s think about a patient with a severe head trauma. Essential life functions still go on even when the brain is severely damaged and the patient is in a coma. The heart, lungs, digestion and other internal organs still function normally mainly because nerves in the brainstem and cervical and thoracic spine regulate the most life-essential functions.

This system is called the autonomous nervous system, or ANS. 

If the brain is damaged, the body may survive, but with a damaged ANS, the patient will die. 

For many years now, I've been observing the importance of the neck and cervical spine in health and medicine. The more I learn, the more focused I am on the neck when it comes to healing and disease prevention. 

In previous parts of the Health and Longevity Course for Dogs, I mentioned energy, blood and nerve flow in the body. The neck is super important for flow to the head and also the rest of the body. Imagine spokes of energy that radiate away from the neck to the head and the body.  

To summarize, the neck is a super important ‘control switch panel’ for the whole body.

What does electric circuitry have in common with your dog's neck?

If you have ever watched an electrician or a telephone company technician putting together a  switch panel, you know how complex it is. They are a hodge-podge of colour-coded wires that makes ones’ head spin and when it comes to your dog's neck it is a thousand times more complex! 

It conducts nerve flow to ensure organ function and also contains guides, and shields many important structures.

Parasympathetic nervous system

This system is the reason you don’t need to worry about your dog's heart beating and stomach digesting food. Instead, the parasympathetic nervous system looks after many of the body's functions without anyone’s worry or input. Imagine if you needed to monitor your dog's life functions 24/7!

Parasympathetic nerve fibres that regulate the body's essential organs, such as the heart, lungs, stomach, intestines and the liver are integrated into the vagus nerve. This nerve originates at the base of the skull and follows the neck. Based on its location, any neck injury or pressure from a collar when a dog is pulling and choking can have a profound effect on your dog's organs.

You can see the parasympathetic nervous system influence in this chart.

Now you can see why you need to be concerned if your dog is a puller or has a choke chain or prong collar on his or her neck.

Just remember the pinched hose principle in Chapter 7.

There is more to your dog’s neck

As if this wasn't enough, there are many other functions that are dependent on a healthy unobstructed flow through the neck:

1. Front leg movement and sensation

Front leg nerves originate in between the fourth and fifth cervical and the first thoracic vertebrae. This is why so many dogs with collar and neck injuries suffer from front leg lameness and paw licking

2. Thymus

The thymus is important, especially in the early development of your dog, as it is responsible for the development of T-cell (T-lymphocytes), which play a crucial role in fighting ‘foreign invaders’ in the body.  

The thymus is most active in puppies. Puppies often pull on their leash and as a result, thymus function and the immune system are often affected. This is another reason why a puppy should wear a harness and never be on a leash attached to a collar.

This is the time where you either gain or lose your dog's precious years of life by causing or preventing early-age damage.

3. Thyroid gland - your dog's metabolic gas pedal

Many experts have written articles and books on hypothyroidism and often point out that hypothyroidism can be caused by genetic predisposition, processed foods and excessive vaccination, which is true. However, not many of them mention neck and collar injuries as a primary cause and I hope this will change.

The thyroid gland can be compared to the throttle or the gas pedal in a car - it optimizes the speed of metabolism the same way your car's gas pedal regulates speed. If the metabolism is too slow due to low thyroid hormone, it leads to hypothyroidism. If the metabolism is too high, it leads to hyperthyroidism, which is more common in cats than dogs.

Unfortunately, the thyroid gland is located exactly at the spot where the collar presses on the front portion of the neck. Repeated pulling and jerking cause serious trauma to the thyroid gland, which causes inflammation. As soon as the immune system registers inflammation, it starts removing inflamed tissues cells, which leads to a lack of thyroid hormone production. 

This is why any dog that pulls or likes to jump forward should have a gentle leash attached to a harness. For more info click here.

4. Trachea and esophagus - Two pipes that like freedom

The trachea and esophagus are two more structures in the neck that deserve protection. Their location also makes them susceptible to injuries from collars. The two most common problems are megaesophagus (lack of muscle tone and esophagus enlargement) and collapsing trachea, especially in smaller dogs. Think of a ripped plastic vacuum cleaner hose. If you try to pull something using a vacuum cleaner hose, the pressure will eventually make it collapse. One does not need a medical school degree to see that a collar should only be used for attaching an ID tag and not to control dogs, especially those who pull or are high strung.

5. Jugular vein and carotid artery

In Chapter 9 of the Health and Longevity Course for Dogs, I asked you to see what it feels like to be a dog on a leash, by surrounding your neck with your hands and pulling.

I'm sure it didn't feel good and to be honest, I admire these little guys. Despite their discomfort when yanking and pulling on their leash, they are such good sports and still wag their tail. 

But obstruction and repeated trauma of these two major blood vessels can cause many health conditions located around the head. 

This is no joke

The energy, blood and nerve flow in your dog’s neck is super important to their health. You now know that untreated injury, the effect of collars especially choke, prong and electric shock collars, and even the regular ones, can create serious life-long consequences and shorten your dog's lifespan.

The effects of such trauma are not only local, but affect the whole body, including life-essential organs such as the heart, the lungs, the stomach, the liver, the guts and more.

The vagus nerve originates at the brainstem and passes through the neck to get to your dog's vital organs. It does not take a genius to see that collars are a bad idea and we need to tell more of our dog loving friends about this. 

If you see people frustrated with their dog's health problems and the doctors are having a hard time reaching a final diagnosis, it is quite possible that the origin of the problem lies in the dog's neck.

What's the solution?

Only dogs that never pull or jump forward can be on a leash attached to a collar and even then I would only use a shock-absorbing leash to reduce the chances of an injury. The rest of them should be on a well-fitted harness, which I will be writing about in the next chapter. 

I also recommend regular check-ups by a canine chiropractor, physiotherapist or a veterinarian who is trained in spinal alignment techniques.

What about dog trainers recommending prong and shock collars?

If you have any trainers telling you the use of a choke and prong collar is okay or if they teach you to jerk on the leash, talk to them or choose another trainer. I see some trainers are adamant that using collars for corrections is okay. In light of what you just learned this can't be true.

When I started writing articles about neck injuries and collar trauma a few years ago, I took the harsh comments and emails from the pro-choke/prong and e-collar crowd hard. 

But then I realized that it takes time for people to understand why a leash attached to a collar of a dog that pulls or is high energy is risky. I hope this chapter helps you understand why and that you will help spread the word.

Thanks for sharing!



Did you know this is only one article from our free Holistic Health & Longevity Course? Check out the entire course...

To read the entire Holistic Health and Longevity Course for Dogs click the links below. 

© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM

Health & Longevity Course Chapters

To read the entire Holistic Health and Longevity Course for Dogs click the links below:

About the author

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

Most Popular

  • Flying with dogs
    In my article, I share the personal story of how I'm able to fly with my dog, Pax, thanks to overcoming challenges with sleepwalking and night terrors. This unique experience not only allowed me to travel with my service dog but also serves as a reminder that even difficult situations can have positive outcomes.
  • dog and pony
    Successful communication is essential for building healthier and more fulfilling relationships and happier lives. In this article, I'll share with you 8 communication hacks to help you avoid unnecessary drama, prioritize active listening and address conflicts effectively.
  • Dalmatian eating fruit
    Can dogs eat bananas, apples, strawberries and other fruit? What about grapes? Find out what fruits are safe, toxic, and healthy for dogs. Learn about the potential health benefits and risks of feeding fruit to your canine companion, and get tips on the ideal time to feed it.
  • Illustration of the anatomy of a heart
    As dog lovers, we all want our beloved pups to live long and healthy lives. Protecting your dog's heart from potential health issues is important, and in this blog Dr. Dobias shares some key points that you might not yet be aware of, read on to find out what you can do to keep your dog's heart safe. 

Dog Health

  • Husky lying on blanket with heart toy
    Dogs have our hearts and that is why we need to protect their heart. Dog’s as they age often face muscle problems and spinal misalignment and you might be surprised to know how that can hurt their heart. Learn how to protect your dog’s spine and by extension their heart.
  • The secret ingredient for a perfect No. 2
    Dogs and humans have evolved side-by-side but they are still quite different when it comes to their digestive tracts and dietary habits. We have studied their original environments such as the soils of the African savanna and consulted with top experts in the field of probiotics and microbiology to come up with a combination that reflects healthy bacterial flora of canines.
  • Man being pointed at
    Criticism can hurt a brand, but constructive feedback can help it grow. In this blog Dr. Dobias talks about the differences between these approaches, and how to handle the power of influence and opinion with care. 
  • Broccoli with vitamins and minerals
    Are you worried that your and your dog's diet is missing something? Maybe you're worried about toxin levels in food, the environment, or flea and tick products. Let's face it; we can't remove ourselves entirely from our toxin-filled world, but we can do things to reduce our exposure to harmful substances. 

Human health

  • Dr. Dobias with Pax
    How do you navigate the seas of life? How do you deal with disappointment? Whatever life throws at us, we can always rely on our dogs to bring joy into our days. In this blog I share my thoughts on the support our dogs provide during the difficult moments in life. 
  • Why 1 in 4 Americans suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
    Learn more about the alarming prevalence of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) affecting 1 in 4 Americans. Discover its main risk factors, diagnosis methods, and treatment options to better manage or prevent this silent yet severe condition. 
  • A new perspective on brain health, memory loss, Alzheimer's Disease, and dementia in people and dogs
    The Science of DHA and the Brain: Omega-3 fatty acids, primarily DHA, are the unsung heroes of brain health. They play crucial roles in brain physiology and biological activities, with exciting links between Omega-3 levels and cognitive function. Higher DHA levels have been shown to preserve the integrity of the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB), your brain's security system
  • Dr. Dobias and Pax
    It appears that most of the world is ready for change, but whenever I think about the solutions to any of the problems that plague our world, I can’t prevent myself from thinking that we humans are acting like little toddlers who have broken a toy and do not know how to fix it. Despite my generally optimistic attitude, I have had a hard time staying positive at times because I know how complex this all is. Read here for some tools that make me feel good about the world, which I would like to share with you.

News, stories and good life

  • Dr. Peter Dobias with his dog Pax on his lap
    Do you have trouble staying positive during difficult times? These days we are surrounded by a lot of negative messaging, and it's easy to let that get you down. Here are some of my tips for remaining positive, and don't forget to share your tips with me!
  • Man raising fist on a mountain
    Most of us have been exposed to panic-inducing information about the virus spread, however, I have noticed the general absence of one piece of information, how to make your immune system stronger and body more resilient. (It will definitely not happen by stockpiling toilet paper!) I have always loved immunology and the current situation has prompted me to put together two simple lists on how to increase your dog’s and your own immunity.
  • Man with dog wearing a collar
    Does your dog have ear problems, nasal or oral tumors, reverse sneezing or an  itchy head or hair loss on their head? Learn how you can address some of these problems and save thousands in vet care costs.
  • Terrier eating raw food
    Now there is no need to guess if there is something missing in your dogs diet.  The HairQ Test is a highly accurate test for mineral deficiencies, toxins and heavy metals in dogs to finely tune your dog’s diet and supplement schedule.



Your cart is currently empty.

Start Shopping