By Phyllis DeGioia
June 9, 2010
“Cone of Shame” is what some people call the plastic Elizabethan collar that pets wear so they wonâ€™t irritate an injury or surgical incision. It’s not really an appropriate nickname, though, since dogs don’t feel shame — their pathetic reaction to the cone just makes them look like they do.
Itâ€™s not shame: Itâ€™s the discomfort of not feeling well made worse by instant tunnel vision, bonking into walls and legs, peering into the food bowl, dropping food down the collar and being unable to get it, and wondering why your people wonâ€™t remove this hideous contraption.
Ginger had a molar pulled yesterday because it had infected roots (ouch). She went in to have her right nostril scoped. She started antibiotics almost two weeks ago because she was sneezing so hard her head hit the floor, and there was pus and gunk (technical term) in her right nostril. Over the weekend her right eye began to swell, so my clinic got her onto a busy surgical schedule. I assumed the swelling was from whatever was happening in her pointy little nose, but I was wrong. The poor girl not only had this awful infected molar (not awful enough to stop her from eating one darn bite of food) but a small scratch on her right eye that caused the swelling. She keeps pawing at her eye and the Cone of Shame stops her from making it significantly worse. Maybe she was pawing at the molar and scratched her eye. Who knows.
For some reason, some folks believe an e-collar is inhumane. I have no idea why anyone would think they are. Sure, theyâ€™re uncomfortable to wear and hell on your legs and door frames, and less fashionable than a doggie sweater on a mastiff, but any piece of plastic that keeps my dog from self-mutilating herself into a bloody infected mess is fine with me.
That doesnâ€™t mean I didnâ€™t eyeball the vet tech and raise an eyebrow over it because I know how much pets hate it.
â€œCanâ€™t we use one of those soft fabric thingamathootchies instead?â€ I asked, using my best under-stress oral skills.
â€œThose donâ€™t work,â€ she said, and that was the end of that discussion.
There are certainly alternatives to the classic white plasticÂ collar, most of which I have not personally tested, including: the inflatable ProCollar; the fabric Veterinary Recovery Collar; the nylon-covered foam collar called the Comfy Cone; even one from Kong with a padded neck.
Once I used a colorful plastic flexible Pet Botanics cone with a padded neck when my blind toy poodle ClintÂ had eye surgery, and it was fine. Itâ€™s not their fault he got stuck behind the toilet in it.
Why did I use that particular one? Itâ€™s what the store had in stock. Oftentimes you are simply not prepared for surgery and donâ€™t have time to order exactly what you want. For example, Ginger was just supposed to have her nose scoped, hopefully pulling out some tinyÂ thing that got stuck up there. I wasÂ surprised that she needed a cone.Â Maybe what youâ€™ve ordered doesnâ€™t work well for the issue youâ€™re facing. Sometimes you have to make do with whatâ€™s on the shelf. And that is the real reason most dogs wear thick plastic unpadded Elizabethan collars that only cost a couple of dollars and bite chunks out of the door moulding: thatâ€™s what the veterinarian sends them home with. Most of us donâ€™t get around to getting a more comfortable one because by the time we find what we want in the correct size, the pet doesnâ€™t need to wear one any more. So unless your pet has had a bad health year, chances are you wonâ€™t have time to order one for the initial use period.
Ginger will simply have to tolerate the Cone of Shame for a while. Itâ€™s not comfortable and she hates it, but it keeps her from turning a scratch into a hard-to-heal corneal ulcer. And thatâ€™s fine with me.
Photo: Ginger in the “cone.”