9 tips to help your dog adjust to wearing an e-collar

Dog wearing Elizabethan collar
Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Jan 08 2019

Nothing strikes fear into a pet parent’s eyes quicker than the sight of a veterinarian or technician approaching with the dreaded E-collar in hand. It may look a little funny, but can the Elizabethan collar, E-collar or “cone of shame” actually help our pets?

The benefits of Elizabethan collars for pets

We know you hate the E-collar, and we know your pet hates the E-collar, but the truth is, without it, healing will take longer. If your dog or cat has surgery, your vet might send him home with an E-collar to prevent him from licking or chewing the affected area, which could lead to loose stitches, infection or ingested topical medications. Without it, you stand the chance of re-injury or worse.

Keeping in mind your pet’s health, and the major financial investment you just made that requires the cone in the first place, I think you (in theory) agree that the E-collar is what’s best for your pet. Still, though it sounds good on paper, putting the E-collar on your pet and keeping it there is another story. That’s why I’ve put together a list of do’s and don’ts to get you and your pet through your first few days as wearers of the cone of shame.

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Why only the first few days? Well, it turns out that your pet will get used to the collar a lot faster than you think. In fact, she’ll be used to it well before you will be, but that won’t stop her from giving you the sad puppy dog eyes to try to trick you out of it.

How to help pets adjust to wearing an e-collar

Help her navigate. This includes in and out of the car, up stairs and through doorways. The cone is much wider than her head, and she may have trouble navigating doorways and stairways at first.

Praise her grandly when she demonstrates good behavior with her collar.

Leave the collar on at all times (with the possible exception of meal times). The more consistent you are, the faster she’ll become accustomed to the collar.

Monitor whether she can eat and drink with the collar on. Move the bowls away from the wall so they can be reached, and if the collar is too deep to allow for eating, it’s OK to remove it for meal times only. Stand there and watch your pet as she eats and then put the collar back on as soon as the meal is finished.

Here's what NOT to do...

Feel guilty. This collar is allowing your pet to heal more quickly, and using it avoids potential emergencies.

Leave your pet alone for the first several hours. It’s likely that he’ll need your help.

Remove the collar (except maybe at meal times). Just leave it on. It’ll be over soon, I promise. Some of you may still take it off. And if you must, never leave your pet unattended while it’s off. You will be totally embarrassed when you show up to the emergency clinic with a pet who has damaged his incision. If you must take it off, don’t forget to put it back on. I can’t tell you how many times people take the collar off “Just for a second!” and then totally forget to put it back on.

Adapting to life with an e-collar

Most pets adapt to the E-collar within the first 24 hours of wearing it consistently. Some more sensitive pets may never get used to it, and in these pets, speak to your vet about alternatives. Depending on where the wound or incision is, a T-shirt or bandage may be sufficient to keep your pet from licking. Other types of collars, such as rigid BiteNot® collars and inflatable donut collars, may be your pet’s preferred deterrent. Shop around to find out what works best for your furry friend.

Keeping your pet from licking his or her incision isn’t just good sense, it’s good medicine. Though you may feel bad, remember that it’s in everybody’s best interest in the long run.

Another big “Do” for pet owners is to consider a pet insurance plan for your dog. It will help you pay for those unexpected injuries that our furry friends seem to have at the most inopportune times. It’s never easy when your dog is in pain, but pet insurance can help make the costs an easy part of the scenario.

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