alternative to cone for dog
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Alternative to Cone For Dog: 7 Safe Options

Is there anything more pitiful looking than a pet in a cone after surgery? If you want a safe alternative to a cone for dog patients recovering from surgery, we empathize and have you covered. Your dog needs to rest and not bother his injury or wound.

A cone for dogs acts as a physical barrier so they can’t tear, lick, or scratch at their wounds. Your dog probably hates wearing the cone, sometimes called the cone of shame or E-collar (Elizabethan collar). Depending on why your dog requires a cone, there are viable options to keep him safe and comfortable during recovery.

Dogs have been a part of my life since childhood, so I know a thing or two about watching them recovery after surgery. We’ve been through everything from eye surgery to ACL repairs for ligament tears, lump removal surgeries, and spay and neutering operations.

Times have changed for the better, and an E-collar isn’t always needed. First and foremost, your dog should not be able to access their wound. He can make matters worse if he irritates, scratches, or is able to reach the wound. Here is our list of favorite cone for dog alternatives along with some postoperative recovery tips.

What Else Can You Use Besides a Cone for a Dog?

Dogs need not bow their heads in shame by wearing an E-collar or plastic cone. Sometimes, in certain situations, a plastic cone is necessary. More about that shortly.

Dogs are slick: They will spend hours trying to get something off, especially if you are not home or otherwise distracted. Fidose of Reality readers over the years have shared stories of dogs who:

  • Get very emotionally depressed, howl, or spin in circles/become neurotic when the E-collar is worn.
  • Knock items off furniture and can end up breaking things and actually hurting themselves.
  • Damage the cone by rubbing it against something or slamming into an object with enough force to bust the cone.

Some dog cone alternatives you can purchase online or in a pet supply store include:

Soft E-collars: A mild deterrent to prevent dogs from accessing the affected option. Some include soft versions of the traditional cone and plush stuffed animal theme versions.

Flexible fabric E-collars: Soft and flexible yet keep most dogs away from their wound site.

Neck control collars: Immobilize your dog’s neck so he can’t access the surgical site.

Inflatable E-collars: Puffy and padded but not the best option for determined chewers. Good with supervision and as a break from the traditional cone.

Fabric onesies for dogs: For dogs who don’t mind wearing clothes, this feels and looks like pajamas or doggy onesies. Prevents licking & chewing at surgical sutures and hot spots and is breathable, washable, and many have a potty flap for easy bathroom breaks.

Surgical suits: Dogs who are used to wearing clothes do well in a surgical suit. Covers the body and/or specific surgical spots. Does not prohibit movement.

Dog in a cone recovering from surgery

When A Cone For Dog Is Necessary

Depending on the location and type of surgery or injury your dog has, a traditional cone may be necessary. Dogs recovering from eye surgery are best served by a plastic cone so they can’t scratch or rub the eye as it heals.

Dogs who have hot spots on their face, head, ears, or in locations that are easy to lick, scratch, rub-on, or chew should be restricted. In a worst-case scenario, your dog opens the wound, bleeds, gets an infection, rips stitches, or reinjures himself.

My dog, Dexter, has undergone two leg surgeries in the past, both to repair a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). On discharge from the veterinary hospital, he came limping out with an E-collar on.

His surgeon advised wearing it so my dog couldn’t lick or bother his wound and staples. I knew my dog would become depressed from the cone; more so than the surgical process itself. Find out below what we successfully used in place of the Elizabethan collar.

I am not totally anti-E-collar; I am, however, pro-dog and what is in his or her best interest.

For example, my dog’s brother, Ricky, had a growth removed from an area near his nose:

dog with sore on nose needs cone

The lump ended up benign, and Ricky was sent home with dissolvable stitches and an E-collar. For some reason, he mostly ignored the wound, not trying to rub it on furniture. If all else fails and the dog must wear a traditional cone, make it a very happy experience. If you had to wear a lampshade for days at a time, you wouldn’t be so happy either.

Even with traditional E-collars, some dogs are persistent and manage to get the collar off and even reach the wound area with the E-collar on.

Each dog, like each person, is different: You must watch your dog closely until he or she learns to accept the collar. If there is way more discomfort and distress with the collar on than not, then a backup option should be instituted.

Traditional Dog Cone Problems

Dogs can get upset, withdrawn, and depressed wearing a traditional cone. If not fitted properly, they can cause rubbing, a rash, and make it hard for your dog to eat or drink.

If your dog has a limited field of vision because of the E-collar, he might bump into things and hurt himself. I know some dogs who became so withdrawn that owners were up all night and others who refused food or water. Vomiting in a cone can be a nightmare (been there, done that).

If your dog’s E-collar is too big or too small and he has to wear it, talk to your veterinarian right away. Never cut the collar, as this could make things worse.

Sound tends to amplify when the dog has a plastic collar on. If your pup gets sensitive to sounds, he may be fearful indoors and out. Never leave a dog unattended outside even with the E-collar one.

Some people get permission to remove the collar during meal times, replacing it right after. Keep in mind an E-collar is temporary, and many dogs do well with them for a short time.

Never scold your dog for not wanting to wear a dog cone. There are other options to the cone of shame in many cases.

Dog Cone Comfortable Alternatives

Talk to your dog’s veterinarian or surgeon first. He or she will be able to best advise you. I asked my dog’s orthopedic surgeon for viable options to the cone, but he was against it. I explained I am home with my dog 24/7 and that would be wearing a postoperative surgical onesie. The vet dismissed it and said it would never work, but it did and my dog make a complete recovery twice.

Wonder what else you can use besides a cone for a dog? Depending on the nature and location of your dog’s injury, wound, or surgical site, here are a few options.

Soft E-Collars

Soft e-collars are exactly what they sound like: a softer, more comfortable, and flexible material than plastic E-collars.

If your dog is strong, determined, or slick he will figure out a way to reach their target. Many pet parents use a soft E-collar as a safe, comfy alternative to plastic cones.

While attending the Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Florida, I discovered the Comfy Cone from All Four Paws. The Comfy Cone design conforms to doorways so dogs don’t get stuck like they would in a plastic cone. It also is water-resistant, and there are removable “stays” so that there is more structure when needed.

There are many soft collars on the market for dogs, but if my dog were to have an injury or require limited contact with anything from the neck up, the Comfy Cone is a definite for us. Some of the features that stand out:

  • Water resistant and repellent-easy to wipe clean
  • Removable stays for more structure when needed
  • Thread pet’s personal collar through elastic loops to keep secure
  • Reflective binding for safety when out of doors.
  • Collar folds back so the dog can eat and drink (LOVE this feature)
  • Collar direction can be reversed for shoulder or upper back injuries, as well as IV lines
  • Vet tested and recommended

Flexible Fabric E-Collars

Flexible fabric E-collars are less rigid and made from softer, more flexible, and made of a soft fabric. They aren’t easy for dogs to remove but they aren’t as restrictive as the cone of shame.

This type of collar is best for injuries, rashes, hot spots, and postoperatively depending on the wound location. Dogs can lay their head on the soft collar and won’t knock things over as they move.

The Alfie Pet soft recovery collar is available in a few choices, which makes it ideal for dogs of any size. The collar is loosened or tightened using a unique Velcro system. It is lightweight and can be worn during sleep.

Neck Control Collars for Dogs

The Bitenot collar works by restricting the movement of your dog’s head. Some pet parents find neck control collars incredibly effective for their dogs.

Not recommended for protecting dogs recovering from eye or ear issues, the Bitenot is made of flexible foam and plastic. They are machine washable and designed so dogs can eat, drink, sleep and play while protecting the back, rump, the base of the tail, flanks, chest, abdomen, and genitals (even feet in small breeds).

It is a good idea for some dogs, and the reviews are mixed. Some people had great success and recommend the Bitenot while others found it failed. Make sure you order the proper size for your dog.

Inflatable E-Collars

Some dog moms and dads love an inflatable E-collar and praise the product. I tend to get nervous with inflatable collars for dogs due to the risk of puncture and suffocation.

If a dog is unsupervised, deflates the collar, and can’t get out, he may panic, have trouble breathing, or worse. It is recommended to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, such as inflating not to the full amount to prevent breathing or suffocation issues.

If your dog is a heavy chewer, an inflatable collar may not be the best option. Some inflatable collars feature plush, soft, durable fabric. Inflatable collars allow the dog to see and don’t restrict their field of vision like a plastic collar.

An inflatable collar is a good backup, as it is lightweight and non-constricting. Determined dogs will likely find a way to get out of it or deflate it, so keep that in mind. Thousands of happy pet parents find success with the right inflatable collar.

Fabric Onesies for Dogs

Approved and used by many veterinarians, the Cover Me By Tui is a comfortable, effective onesie for dogs. This post-surgical garment works well to cover hot spots, excessive lickers, and even to keep a dog warm and dry.

The Cover Me by Tui is ingenious and comes in an adjustable fit step-into style or an adjustable fit pullover style. It is available in a variety of colors and sizes for dogs from Chihuahua to Great Dane. Made from 100 percent Peruvian cotton, it is very breathable and doesn’t irritate the dog’s skin.

I purchased two Cover Me by Tui onesies so I always had a clean one for Dexter. Once or twice, we had blood leakage from his leg surgery wound. Since they are machine washable, it became one of my favorite products of all time.

The potty flap for bathroom breaks means you don’t have to take the garment off when your dog has to pee or poop.

P.S. Sometimes I take flack for allowing my dog to wear clothes from time to time. Mostly, he wears clothes for warmth, but he does have a wardrobe for appearances, events, and functions. When it came time for my dog to wear a doggie pajama (Cover Me By Tui), he had zero problems adjusting. It was just another piece of clothes to wear.

Cover Me By Tui instead of E collar

Surgical Suits For Dogs

The Suitical Recovery Suit is not a cone, but it is a full or partial body way to protect your dog postoperatively. Suitical was founded in 2013 and is a 100 percent animal-friendly, lead-free, toxin-free garment dogs wear during recovery.

I first learned about Suitical from veterinary technician, Kim Kiernan. Kim used Suitical on her Cocker Spaniel, Poppy, as the dog recovered from multiple growth removal surgery. One of her incisions is across her chest.

Suitical products act as a second skin, which the company says allows the dog to enjoy their day with little anxiety or disruption.

Suitical for dogs recovering from surgery

“The recovery sleeve nicely covers her chest incision and at night I’m just putting a t-shirt on her for warmth,” Kiernan says.

The breathable fabric enables air to circulate around the wound for healing, and it fully covers the affected areas to prevent biting and scratching. Covered areas are also kept dry and clean, preventing bacteria and dirt from causing infection.

Suitical is also available in a sleeve version for dogs who require partial coverage.

Practical Plush Dog Recovery Collar

Who says recovery has to be boring? Pop a sunflower or lion recovery collar on your dog. Lightweight, soft, and comfortable, the soft cone is designed to keep dogs away from wounds and hot spots.

Pets can eat, sleep, and drink normally as the unique fasten Velcro closure can be loosened or tightened according to your dog’s neck size and needs. Cold wash in the machine means it stays clean and is easy to launder.

Functional and adorable, I find this also works for hot spot prevention so your dog can’t chew himself senseless. If your dog is itchy, always talk to your vet and get to the bottom of why your dog is scratching.

Tips To Keep Dogs Safe Postoperatively

When your dog is recovering from surgery, a wound, accident, or has an injury, do what is best for him. Follow veterinary orders, keep the wound clean, don’t let him have access to it by licking or scratching, and don’t let your dog potty outside without supervision.

Here are few more tips to keep your dog safe postoperatively:

10 Ways to Entertain Your Dog After Surgery

What Happens When Dogs Undergo Surgery?

First Aid Emergency Kit Items for Dogs

Have you ever used an E-collar or an alternative to one on your pet? Do tell in the comments below.Save

Alternatives to the dog cone of shame

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65 Comments

  1. That Suitical is really interesting! We’ve never had much luck with regular e-collars. I used the Bite-Not collar when Zeus had his TPLO surgery and it worked for a bit, but then my Hoodini figured out how to get it off – completely unsure how, given that there’s a strap that goes around the belly and all.

  2. I hadn’t heard of some of these! The pajamas are adorable. If Henry needs surgery, I’ll definitely look into some of these options because I know he won’t be into a traditional e-collar.

    This post reminds me of a story from when my father was a boy: their family dog required surgery and wore an e-collar for a few days after. Their neighbor, after seeing the dog in the yard, frantically ran up to the house yelling “He’s got a bucket on his head!” in her strong Irish accent. She was glad to learn that everything was ok!

  3. I wasn’t aware of any of these alternatives. In the past I’ve never been able to get any of my dog’s to keep a cone on. My chi is having her spay surgery her soon, hopefully she will do okay with the collar.

  4. Fortunately, we haven’t had to use a cone of shame with Ruby. However, I am glad to know about these alternatives as I know an e-collar would completely freak her out and fear she would hurt herself trying to get it off.

  5. We’ve used a soft cone many times. It’s so much nicer than the plastic. I wish pets would just cooperate so they wouldn’t need any extra protection!

  6. We have only ever used an e-collar with our dog (and cats), but I definitely would look into alternatives if we ever have to use one again, which of course I’m hoping not! I think Eddie would definitely tolerate the Cover Me. And he would look so cute!

    1. Be cautious with that, as they can strangle or suffocate dogs, especially when punctured, Ruth and Layla.

  7. I have had to use the traditional cone on Kilo on his three vet visits to stop him biting anyone. He can not wear a muzzle and it really helped. No one got hurt and he got the treatment he needed, (in one case emergency). He is not keen on clothes but I would definitely investigate those comfy-looking PJs if he had stitches or anything.

  8. oh the famous t-shirt is making its debut in our house right now, my old girl Sheba has a mass removed from her side and has to wear a shirt cause even though she cant lick it with the cone of shame on her head she can still itch it with her rear paw. But if she is wearing her shirt she wont touch it!

    1. OOOH I like hearing stories like this, Kerri. Some dogs are interesting in that they won’t touch a wound when a shirt is on. Hope all is well with Sheba.

  9. The cone of shame is a horrible contraption. With Jasmine and Cookie we were fortunate that we got away without needing one, including after any of their surgeries. JD, he’s obsessive and had to have one but he got around it anyway. We did have the soft cone but he stuck his leg right into it. More importantly, from an observation I think that the downside of that one is that it extremely limits visibility. While the classic cone of shame is “see through”, with the comfy cone the dog can see only ahead and nowhere else. I think that is another problem all together.

    1. The dog parent needs to use whatever is comfortable and helps the dog recover so that they do not cause irritation to the wound.

    2. Yeah it’s one thing or another – we have had luck with our work arounds and none of our dogs ever needed an E-collar.

  10. These are great alternatives to the Cone of Shame, thanks for sharing. I’ve had pets who have worn the cone, it’s nice to know that there are some good alternatives that make them less uncomfortable and may even be safer.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  11. Luckily, my kitties have never required an e-collar. The only surgeries I’ve had done on them have been spay/neuter, which don’t always require an e-collar for cats. I think that what I would choose to use would really depend on the particular injury. I love the idea of using t-shirts/clothing for body wounds. Whatever is the least restrictive and most accepted by the pet is the best in my mind.

  12. If you need something to keep a pup from nibling or niggling I can see a LOT of benefits in the garments you have recommended here. Sometimes a dog an look cute (an added bonus for a worried dog mum?) Othertimes it is a scary necessity. The 10 days kitty Harvey had to wear an Elizabethan collar were the longest 10 days of MY life as I worried and he got on with coping.

    1. It really is a nightmare that stinkin cone and I know sometimes it is so necessary. I look for other options and wow the surprises I found. 🙂

  13. I’ve seen the comfy cones which I think are a great alternative, the e-collars are the worst. I hate using them when I leave the house as it’s so hard for them to get around furniture and the other dogs. It actually scares Sherm when Bruiser has one on and I’m so glad there are alternatives. What I hadn’t seen was Cover me by Tui! Such a great idea for post surgical cases.

    1. I worry, too, about some options I have seen – some of them are dangerous. That bumping into stuff with the Ecollar can’t be fun.

  14. I love these alternatives to the plastic ‘lampshade.’ Henry is really struggling with his allergies right now so is wearing a cotton t-shirt to limit ‘chewing/scratching.’ He has a few. After one becomes grungy with coconut oil (we apply to soothe the itches), we throw it in the wash and grab another tee.

  15. I love this! When Rugby had to have a small growth removed on his shoulder, I was able to just place a t-shirt on him to keep him from licking or chewing. If it had been at the back end, keeping him away from it would have been challenging! This is great information and hopefully will be a really wonderful solution to the cone of shame!!

  16. Sophie had a soft cone after her spay surgery and it was great for her. She looked a little bit like a flower and it was much more comfortable than the traditional cone. The cover me might be great for Nelly who is experiencing an allergy flare up.

  17. Thanks for sharing these alternatives! Our little Kai recently had to have a torn nail looked after; such a to-do over such a “small” thing! The vet presented us with a plastic cone as a preventative measure, but Kai-Kai felt so incredibly miserable after everything he went through that there was no way I was going to put his head in a cone if I could possibly help it; I knew that it would make his misery ten times worse. Thankfully he didn’t go after his wound too much and listened every time I asked him to leave his paw alone. It’s good to know that there are other options besides “the cone!”

  18. I am for anything that will make my pups more comfortable during an already uncomfortable time. I have not had to use anything yet, but my male pup faces having his testicles cut out because they did not drop (he is now a fews days from being a yr old). I will be looking into that suit!!

    1. We really did good with the Cover Me by Tui – and it is so soft and washes well. Hope your dog is okay, Ann.

  19. We’ve used E-collars for three out of our four pets. When our two cats had surgery, we tried the soft E-collars (we also tried a self made sweater for one of them). They did not work and they were able to fold them to get to their sutures. Now it’s hard plastic E-collars for everyone in our house when they need it. Lesson learned lol.

  20. i have a soft collar that i use when necessary. however, my dog breeder told me abt using a paper plate and cutting out the middle, then staple it around their neck. this is for small dogs. it works great and they can eat better and move around much better with the paper plate. you just cut out the middle and wrap it around and staple. i put tape over the staples. you can put on a new one everyday.

  21. My dog has never had surgery for which I am so grateful. Thanks for sharing all of your alternatives to the hard neck cone. I have seen friend’s pets looking so miserable having to wear one of the hard cones.

  22. My poor dog could have died from his plastic e collar. My English bulldog has been dealing with eye issues for about a year now. He’s had his entropian eyelids fixed along with a recent surgery to repair a deep ulcer. I am using the comfy cone for this past surgery (4weeks) in the cone, because something awful happened to him in his regular plastic e collar.

    A few months ago when he had a different ulcer healing from dry eye, he was given meds and a cone to wear while it healed. He had been used to the cone for a few days at this point and when we were home, he would always be monitored right near us with his cone on, and in his kennel when we were at work. I left the room one night to do something for about a minute and I heard my dog gasping for air and I ran to him as he was running to me. Somehow His cone got bent and was sticking into his trachea and cutting off his airway. Luckily i was home and was able to remove it quickly, because my dog would have suffocated and died if I wasn’t. It was so scary for both me and my pup. I’m not exactly sure how he managed to bend it, he may have walked into a wall or the end of the couch after I left the room for that minute, Who knows. All I know if that he will never again wear a regular plastic Elizabethan collar. This comfy cone is a miracle to me currently as he is now healing from his second surgery and has to wear it for 4 weeks. Just beware of the potential dangers of the plastic cones. It may have been a total freak accident that happened to my dog because I have never heard of that happening either. I just don’t want it happening to anyone else’s little friend.

  23. My dog J.R. had to sport a cone for the first couple of weeks after I adopted him and April. Usual pitfalls as you wrote in your post. Some pet care clients have used the soft cones, they work better, but some dogs are still freaked out by them. I’ve seen the shirts you wrote above and have wondered if they work well. My dogs like to tear up clothing, material, etc. so I don’t know if it would work for them, I definitely like the idea as an alternative to the “Cone of Shame”

  24. Right after surgery, with a cast on her left leg to her hip…she got out of her garment…I found it on the floor the next morning. If my dog can do it…others can. I bought 2 of the garments..and still ended up in the cone of shame.

  25. I’ve used the Cover Me with my own dogs and with dogs I have fostered and it is wonderful. They are so much more comfortable. The adjustable fit ones even worked for my dachshund!

  26. Came here searching for ways to stop my dog nibbling out her back leg. So far we’ve had the soft collar, and cone of shame, which not only bent to allow access she also rubbed leg on the steps to reopen the wound. Then I tried putting a scratch mit on her paw and bandaging the leg, that lasted 3 hours. Then bandaging which included a loop round her waist, then that with a collar, then with extra strong sticky bandage and a cone…the last two she removed overnight and I can’t find the bandaging to work out how she removed it! She is very happy to wear the collar and bandaging because I think she just sees it as an enjoyable challenge. I’ve just been to buy a baby t-shirt and she is wearing this on her back legs, the front cut out for toileting and attached to her collar. Fingers crossed. She heals really quickly so hopefully this will work because the cover me will take several days for delivery.

  27. My 9yo American Cocker just had ACL rupture repair surgery a week ago. She was fitted with a thick foam cover over her entire leg top to bottom. She has adapted well and I hope our Vet uses it again if the sutures aren’t ready to come out after the one week mark. She might occassionally lick at the cover but that’s it. No chewing or other unwanted behavior.

    I wouldn’t even think of using the cone of shame at this point…

  28. My lab of one year freaks out with the cone of shame and it’s so big around. He can hardly turn around in his crate when we have to leave him in there. I did buy the “Comfurt Cone” which is like s big soft donut pillow. It’s working great and he doesn’t mind it at all. I had to get the extra large for my 70 pound lab puppy but it works and he’s not touched the sutures at all.

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