7 tips to help your dog wear an elizabethan 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 dog cone in hand. It may look a little funny, but the Elizabethan collar, E-collar or “cone of shame” can help your pet recover from surgery and heal faster. Here's how:

  • Help your pet through doorways and navigating stairs
  • Leave the cone on at all times
  • Reward good behavior while your dog is wearing it
  • Move food and water bowls away from wall
  • Don't feel guilty - the cone is helping your pet!
  • Don't leave your pet unattended in the cone for a long time 
  • If you must take the cone off, don't forget to put it back on

Elizabethan collars for dogs

We know you hate dog cones, and we know your puppy hates dog cones 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 Elizabethan 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 cone is what’s best for your pet. Still, though it sounds good on paper, putting the cone 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 dog cone 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 Elizabethan collar

1. Help your pet navigate wearing the cone

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

2. Praise your pet when she demonstrates good behavior with her cone

Leave the collar on at all times (with the possible exception of meal times if it proves troublesome for eating and drinking). The more consistent you are with rewarding her good behavior, the faster she’ll become accustomed to the collar.

3. Monitor whether she can eat and drink with the collar on

Move the bowls away from the wall so they can be reached without the collar hitting the wall, 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.

4 things NOT to do...

1. Don't feel guilty

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

2. Don't leave your pet alone in the cone for the first several hours

It’s likely that he’ll need your help at some point. Keep an eye on him and be ready to lend a paw if needed.

3. Don't remove the Elizabethan collar 

Just leave it on except at mealtime. 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.

4. 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. Your veterinarian will advise you when to take the cone off after a spay or neuter surgery or other treatment. But until then, leave it on. 

How to make wearing a dog cone more comfortable

Most pets adapt to the collar within the first 24 hours of wearing it consistently, even while sleeping. Some more sensitive pets may never get used to it, and in these pets, speak to your vet about dog cone 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.

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