The Cone of Shame

At some point, almost every dog (and cat!) has had to wear the Cone of Shame (as coined by Disney Pixar), aka the Elizabethan Collar. While it generates a lot of mirth and has birthed a world of internet memes, the dreaded Cone of Shame is no laughing matter for the poor pet that has to wear it…

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The plastic cone or “E Collar” was created to prevent a dog or cat licking or nibbling at a wound or hot spot, following surgery for example. It’s natural for a pet to lick and chew at stitches or a wound, and this causes irritation that can lead to infection, hair loss, scarring and compromised healing. Saliva does not, contrary to popular belief, speed healing, and the tongue (in cats in particular) can quickly destroy new, healing tissue.

While they might not be at all happy about it, pets can eat, sleep, go to the toilet, and play while wearing the E Collar. You can even take your dog walking, if he is well enough.

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It can be tempting as a pet owner to release Fido or Puss from the Cone of Shame early – let’s face it, no pet enjoys wearing it, and it can even get in the way of eating (small dogs and cats experience this problem most – chat to the vet for a solution). It is critical, however, to leave it in place as long as the vet has recommended. Too many times a vet has to re-stitch, or even surgically repair, a wound that has been irritated because the E-collar was not worn, or was removed too soon.

Once the collar is on, leave it there so the pet gets used to it. Taking it off and putting it back on may lead the dog or cat to perceive it as a punishment; some dogs will try to destroy it. The stricter a pet owner is with the cone, the sooner the pet will adapt – and the sooner it will be able to come off. Will the pet be grumpy, sulky, or depressed? Maybe. Will it hold a grudge? No – even a cat will get over it as soon as the collar is off.

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Are there alternatives to the E Collar?

Check with your vet. There may be an alternative. For example, if the incision or wound is on the belly or chest, wearing a T-shirt can possibly do the trick. There are also some soft donut-style collars that may work. But overall, the stiff E Collar is the best option if recommended by the vet.

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Tips for helping your pet cope

  • Keep a close watch on your pet while they are wearing the E collar
  • Be patient and reassuring – give lots of TLC
  • Don’t laugh at him (not in front of him, at least!)
  • Make sure the collar isn’t too tight
  • Ensure food and water bowls are smaller than the collar area. Put these onto something to elevate them and have them away from the wall etc so that the collar doesn’t bump the floor and stop access for eating and drinking.
  • If your pet is a dog, keep him amused when he starts to feel better with small treats and a new chew toy

Despite its colloquial name, the cone is not at all intended to shame you pet – it is in its best interest. And it’s only for a short time.

In the meantime, have some fun – and take a photo!

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