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