Has your dog worn the ‘Cone of Shame’?

June 9, 2010

“Cone of Shame” is what some people call the plastic Elizabethan collar that pets wear so they won’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.

It’s not shame: It’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 won’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, they’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 doesn’t mean I didn’t eyeball the vet tech and raise an eyebrow over it because I know how much pets hate it.

“Can’t we use one of those soft fabric thingamathootchies instead?” I asked, using my best under-stress oral skills.

“Those don’t work,” she said, and that was the end of that discussion.

There are certainly alternatives to the classic white plastic 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 Clint had eye surgery, and it was fine. It’s not their fault he got stuck behind the toilet in it.

Why did I use that particular one? It’s what the store had in stock. Oftentimes you are simply not prepared for surgery and don’t have time to order exactly what you want. For example, Ginger was just supposed to have her nose scoped, hopefully pulling out some tiny thing that got stuck up there. I was surprised that she needed a cone. Maybe what you’ve ordered doesn’t work well for the issue you’re facing. Sometimes you have to make do with what’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: that’s what the veterinarian sends them home with. Most of us don’t get around to getting a more comfortable one because by the time we find what we want in the correct size, the pet doesn’t need to wear one any more. So unless your pet has had a bad health year, chances are you won’t have time to order one for the initial use period.

Ginger will simply have to tolerate the Cone of Shame for a while. It’s not comfortable and she hates it, but it keeps her from turning a scratch into a hard-to-heal corneal ulcer. And that’s fine with me.

Photo: Ginger in the “cone.”

Filed under: pets, connected,veterinary medicine — Phyllis DeGioia @ 5:06 am


  1. So far our young boxer hasn’t had the privilege of wearing one of these (touch wood), but my previous Cocker Spaniel did. He made the best of it by going outside and using it as a scoop to throw snow up in the air and catch it in the funnel.

    It is kind of a sad think though because they become a bit restrictive on what they usually do.

    Comment by Stew Bibby — June 9, 2010 @ 5:13 am

  2. Oops! The Kong link isn’t quite right! ;o)

    Comment by Heather — June 9, 2010 @ 5:31 am

  3. ha, good timing. My Border Collie Spike just recently had to be enconed for a full month after his maxillectomy.


    I was actually surprised at how little he allowed either the surgery or the cone to affect his quality of life – possibly because he found it an effective cat herding aid. Though the relief when I took it off at last was palpable; he didn’t try and mess with the surgery site at all but he was SO glad to be able to lick himself again.

    Comment by Liz Black Dog — June 9, 2010 @ 5:59 am

  4. When Kirby had hip surgery the inflatable worked great. But he is an oddly configured little dog who basically couldn’t eat or drink in the cone.

    Comment by schnauzer — June 9, 2010 @ 6:46 am

  5. Sorry for the short follow up, but if you click on schnauzer in the “comment by schnauzer” line, you can see him in his fashionable life vest.

    Comment by schnauzer — June 9, 2010 @ 6:48 am

  6. LOL – my little pup just got the big snip and had to wear his cone of shame, too:

    I considered getting a thick padded one but he didn’t respond to the cone as badly as I thought he would, so it worked out.

    Comment by jen — June 9, 2010 @ 7:13 am

  7. A well-fitted basket muzzle is a viable alternative for many of the situations where The Cone of Shame is used.

    I have concerns about using them for long periods because they cause stress on the cervical vertebrae, mostly because the dog will be holding his head in an unnatural position.

    Obviously when you are trying to keep feet off of ears, etc., rather than the dog’s teeth off of some other part of his body, it won’t work.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — June 9, 2010 @ 7:35 am

  8. Sorry about the Kong link – there is something wrong on their website and I can’t actually get to the collar link. But they make one. Here’s a link to one at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/KONG-E-Collar-Extra-Large-Clear/dp/B0002AR0G0

    Comment by Phyllis DeGioia — June 9, 2010 @ 8:36 am

  9. My young and hyperactive wirehaired dachshund in now on day 4 of wearing a Comfy Collar in a vet hospital while recovering from surgery on both knees. Following advice I read somewhere (?) I chose a size based on length of his snout, and so my fairly small dog is wearing a size large. The velcro spacing on the collar enables it to be adjusted to his correct neck size and it’s been working great.

    On my daily visits to him, he is as serene as can be expected, while the dogs in neighboring crates are banging their plastic cones against the walls. He seems quite comfortable when resting his head on the padded collar. It can be folded back to enable the dog to eat and drink while wearing it, although I assume that if that’s not done under close supervision, the doggie will use that feature to reach the forbidden body parts.

    As for your vet’s remark . . . All of the vets working at the hospital have asked me where I got it, so they can buy some for their own dogs. I’m sorry to have to tell them that I had it shipped (at absurd expense, but worth every penny) here to Costa Rica, where only the plastic cones are available.

    Comment by Jonah — June 9, 2010 @ 8:55 am

  10. Sparky was supposed to wear The Cone after a nasty anal gland abcess. This fashion accessory lasted all of 8 hours. I found the poor ol’ girl sitting in the middle of the hallway with her nose pointed straight up in the air as she tried to avoid bonking that cone on anything/everything. Due to her diminishing eyesight and hearing, the ol’ girl moves her head around like Stevie Wonder; if she had the ability to sob in frustration, she would have been doing so when I found her.
    So…off with The Cone. Would have tried one of the softer inflatable collars, but a couple of verbal corrections when she started to bother the open wound and she got the message to leave it alone. Such a good, biddable dog; lay down a “rule” and she pretty much follows it.

    Was prepared for Jet to get The Cone after his surgeries for the rock-eating incidents. But vet sent him home with only a caution and Jet never so much as glanced at the incisions.

    Comment by Melinda — June 9, 2010 @ 9:01 am

  11. My best friend and I nearly killed each other when she had to wear one. Had to watch her constantly for over a week, morning and night. When I failed, she ate some stiches and tubing and started the clock over.

    One of my other dogs seems to not mind anything. Dogs have distinct personalities.

    I hate the cone, and would try something else first. Anythng so the dog can walk around without getting angry, lol.

    Comment by Erich Riesenberg — June 9, 2010 @ 9:21 am

  12. My dog wore one after a surgery. It’s tough to watch, but better than having to resuture an incision. I saved it, and have used it a couple of times when she had a severe allergic reaction to something. It kept her from biting herself to bits while the steroids and benadryl kicked in. We decorated it with cool decals and stickers. Doesn’t make her feel better, but we like the way it looks.

    Comment by C.L.H. — June 9, 2010 @ 10:50 am

  13. I guess I’ve been lucky. When my pit bull had to wear the cone after knee surgery, she didn’t miss a beat. But she’s pretty go-with-the-flow in general.

    I was worried about Mr. Sensitive Border Collie having to wear one after his cryptorchid neuter (he wanted to lick lick lick lick his belly incision). He *isn’t* a very go-with-the-flow kind of guy. And sure enough, when I put it on him initially, he completely “forgot” how to walk. But within a few hours, he was fine.

    My backup plan was to roll up a towel and wrap it around his neck and duct tape it into a ring in a make-shift version of the inflatable collars that are out there, but his neck is so long and he’s so bendy, I wasn’t terribly confident that he wouldn’t be able to get around it and continue to lick.

    Comment by Katie — June 9, 2010 @ 11:12 am

  14. One of my Labs used hers as an extension, bonking doors open and such. And I had the bruises to show for it. But it was pretty dang funny to watch her walk down the hallway at the vet and bonk the swinging doors open without even missing a stride.

    My little dashchund did just fine in the soft fabric collar that I got from the vet. It was long enough that it folded flat down on her body and she couldn’t reach around it to lick her belly incision.

    I got the ProCollar for my other Lab and it didn’t work at all. The size that would fit her neck wasn’t quite wide enough when fully inflated and she could reach right around it with her long nose. I got a clear plastic collar at the pet store because the white plastic one from the vet was, to me, very difficult to manage since I had to take it off of her so she could eat and potty. The clear plastic one had snaps that were so much easier to work with than those straps that you have to weave through the slits in the ones from the vet.

    Comment by Sherron — June 9, 2010 @ 11:41 am

  15. I have only had to use the “cone of shame” on one of my dogs. A yellow lab we had when I was growing up, had PRA and then had to have an eye removed. If you think putting that cone on a dog that can see is bad. Try putting it on a dog that is blind. Poor Griz.

    Comment by Jill — June 9, 2010 @ 6:49 pm

  16. I have a pro collar in que for a product review. Would you like me to ship it to you for review?

    Comment by Ericka — June 9, 2010 @ 8:32 pm

  17. We’ve used the blow up variety (works great if the injury is on the back end, as it prevents the head from turning), and we’ve also used the comfy cone (better if the injury is on the head).

    I will happily vouch for both products, although they are both MUCH more expensive than a plain plastic E-cone or even the Kong ones (which work as described). If it’s only going to be for a few days we use a standard plastic cone. If it’s going to be longer than a few days, I’ll spend the $20-35 for a more comfortable product.

    Comment by Kim — June 10, 2010 @ 10:33 am

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