An Elizabethan collar, or e-collar, is a cone-shaped device that dogs wear to prevent them from licking or biting wounds, stitches, rashes and other skin irritations. You’ve probably also heard them called the “cone of shame.” It’s true that these cones are not especially fun for dogs to wear. However, by selecting the right one, fitting it correctly, and acclimating your dog, you can make this critical tool tolerable and comfortable so your dog can heal properly. 

Why do dogs need e-collars?

Dogs have a natural instinct to lick and bite at their wounds. So, if your dog has a skin wound or irritation of any kind, they’re most likely going to lick it…a lot. Unfortunately, this hinders the healing process, making wounds worse and even causing infections. 

When do dogs need them?

An e-collar is an absolute must for healthy healing post-surgery to prevent dogs from biting open the incision site. Veterinarians also recommend them when your dog has an injury, bug bite, or rash, and when you need to apply a topical product, like hydrocortisone lotion and wound medication, to prevent dogs from licking them off. Keeping one on hand at home is useful for when these incidents occur.

What type of e-collar should I choose?

Select an e-collar that is durable, lightweight, comfortable, and doesn’t obstruct your dog’s vision. There are a couple different types. Rigid e-collars provide the best protection because they extend past the dog’s nose, making them most effective at preventing dogs from reaching their wounds. These are made of a rigid plastic and come in different sizes to fit your dog. Many also feature padded edges to provide dogs comfort and protect household items. 

There are also inflatable e-collars that are designed for maximum comfort and easy storage. However, these are best used for wounds to the trunk of a dog’s body only. Since they don’t extend past their noses, dogs may be able to reach their limbs and paws. Dogs should be monitored more frequently when using an inflatable collar since they provide a lesser degree of protection. 

How do I fit an e-collar on my dog?

1. When your dog is calm, gently hold your dog’s head with one hand and place the collar over their head with the other. Recruit help if needed to hold your dog’s head. Slide the collar past their ears until the smaller end is around their neck. 

2. Secure the fastener at the neck so that it’s snug but not too tight. You should be able to place two to three fingers between the neck and the collar, but make sure you can’t pull it off. If you’re using a rigid e-collar, you may be able to secure it directly to your dog’s regular collar.

How do I know if it’s the right size?

The larger end of the cone should extend slightly past your dog’s nose to effectively prevent them from reaching the wound. If it extends way past their nose, it’s too big and may slip off or hinder their movement. You’ll know that it’s fitted properly if it’s comfortable for your dog to wear and successfully blocks their mouth from contacting their skin.

How can I make wearing an e-collar easier on my dog?

Acclimate your dog to the cone as much as possible, allowing them to make positive associations with it. If you’re purchasing an e-collar for an upcoming surgery, introduce the collar to your dog before the surgery. Let them smell it and try it on them while giving praise and treats. 

The first day they have to wear it, it may be helpful to isolate them to a small area to help them adapt to it. Most dogs generally get used to it within a few hours. Before giving them free range of your home, try to open up any tight spaces to allow your dog safe passage. Small furniture may also need to be removed temporarily so your dog doesn’t accidentally knock them over. Take note of any spots outside where their collar could get stuck, like bushes and tree branches. Observe your dog closely – inside and outside – to make sure they are able to navigate your home and access their food and water. You may need to elevate their food or put them in smaller bowls to make it easier to eat and drink. 

If your dog is simply not tolerating the e-collar, even after adjusting the fit, return it for a different kind, or talk to your veterinarian. Do not let your dog go unsupervised without a collar if they’re recovering post-surgery.

How long does my dog need to wear one?

It depends on your dog’s wound or irritation type and severity. Your veterinarian can tell you how long your dog should wear it for best healing results. 

Can my dog sleep while wearing an e-collar?

Yes. Most dogs get used to wearing an e-collar quickly and are able to position themselves to sleep comfortably while wearing it.

How can I clean the e-collar?

E-collars can get messy with food residue, drool, etc. Luckily, most e-collars are relatively easy to clean. First, take the collar off, and give your dog a good scratch around the neck. Next, take a damp rag and wipe it clean. Then, dry it with a towel. Make sure it’s completely dry before putting it back on your dog. 

Are dogs actually “ashamed” while wearing the “cone of shame”? 

No. The pitiful look you may have observed is probably a look of apprehension. They may not be used to wearing the cone yet, and they’re being prevented from their natural instinct to lick their wounds. It’s going to feel a little awkward for them. But, with your help and the right e-collar, they should recover quickly and have it removed in no time.

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