Elizabethan collars, or e-collars for short, are those accessories that make dogs look like they're bullhorns with legs. They're not pretty, and your dog's dignity will take a knock, but e-collars are necessary to ensure that wounds heal properly. Your vet will send you home with a cone after an operation, or you can make one with basic materials.
E-collars act as barriers, so your dog doesn't lick or bite at its wounds. You'll often see dogs in e-collars after surgery, or when they have sores or lacerations, they need to leave well alone. Healing sites are often itchy; the collar is essential to prevent infection and protect stitches. Dog saliva can help clean minor dog cuts, but it compromises serious injuries and post-operative wounds.
The so-called cone of shame tends to be heavy and tires smaller dogs out. Cones can be cumbersome and get in the way of food and water. They also make moving around more difficult and impede two of a dog's key senses—hearing and sight. Combine these impediments with the pain from a wound and the wooziness from pain meds, and little buddy is sure to be out of sorts.
Initially, your dog will not be keen to wear the collar, but they'll get used to it. Follow your vet's instructions and contact the clinic if any complications arise or if your dog is experiencing collar-related discomfort. Don't take the collar off unless you get the green light from your pooch's healthcare team.
Dogs generally need to wear cones for about two weeks after spaying or neutering. But if they've gone to the operating theater for an orthopedic procedure, they'll probably have to wear an e-collar for about three months. Fortunately, you can take steps to make the e-collar more comfortable, including buying fit-for-purpose and vet-approved fabric hoods, padding the inner brim of a traditional collar, or creating a custom collar.
If you've got a clean and dry pool noodle on hand, you can construct an e-collar with some hardy twine. A pool noodle collar is suitable for mid-sized dogs and preferable to stiff plastic. Measure the circumference of the doggy's neck and add four inches to arrive at the twine length you'll require. Cut the twine, then use a serrated knife to cut the noodle into pieces appropriately sized for your dog's neck. Two-inch-wide pieces should do for a neck with an 18-inch circumference. Thread as many noodle pieces onto the twine as you can. Secure your homemade collar around Fido's neck by tying the ends of the string where it's snug but not too tight.
This soft and flexible makeshift collar makes your dog much less likely to bump into objects, knocking them here, there, and everywhere. Fold a towel lengthwise thrice. Get someone to help you distract your canine friend with a treat while you loop the folded towel around its neck and use duct tape to hold the collar together.
If your dog has a small wound you're treating at home; you can make a foam collar to speed the healing process along. Measure your dog's neck and cut your egg crate to the correct length. Use felt and sewed-on velcro to complete the project. This homemade collar prevents your dog from turning towards its back, but it isn't ideal for wounds on the front legs.
You can use poster board or paper plates to fashion emergency e-collars. Cut out a circle in the middle of the paper plate, keeping your dog's neck size in mind. Just remember, this is a temporary measure. A paper plate collar is flimsy and won't hold up well if your dog is drinking messily or going outside where it's wet.
Do you carry neck pillows when you're traveling long distances by plane? A neck pillow works well as an easy-peasy substitute for a traditional e-collar—you simply have to put it on your dog. It improves visibility, and it's plush, so it won't hurt if you and your pup are on an accidental collision course.
E-collar desensitization in the weeks leading up to surgery is a good idea. Introduce your dog to the cone, and reward your pooch with treats for putting its head in the wide opening. The next day, use positive reinforcement to try and coax it to put its head in the small opening. It's a gradual process, but your dog will first get used to having the collar on. Soon they'll acclimate to keeping it on for more extended periods and moving around with it.
Get your paws on the latest animal news and information