In the canine world, it’s often quite easy to tell when a dog has recently had surgery, or is dealing with some form of skin irritation. The plastic cone around their head is a dead giveaway.
But while the cone is a nuisance for dogs—and a bit funny looking to pet parents—it actually serves an important purpose.
If your pup is miserable and a traditional e-collar isn’t working, there are some alternatives that you can consider. Let’s dive into the world of dog cones to see why they are sometimes necessary and explore different options for our fussy canine companions.
Dog Cone Collars: When They’re Necessary
For dogs, that huge plastic cone—sometimes referred to as an Elizabethan dog collar or e-collar—serves an essential function.
“E-collars are regularly used in veterinary medicine,” says Dr. Ashley D. Rossman, a veterinarian at Glen Oak Dog and Cat Hospital. “They are extremely important after surgical procedures to keep dogs from licking or chewing at their incisions. They are also used to keep patients from chewing or licking at infected or irritated areas, like hot spots.”
Cones also help prevent pets from scratching, licking, or chewing at their eyes when there are problems in that area, adds Dr. Karie Anne Johnson, co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service catering to the Chicago suburbs.
Where to Buy a Dog Cone
Dog cones can be purchased directly from your veterinarian and may be sent home with you if your dog has a surgery, procedure, or your veterinarian recommends a treatment plan that prevents licking or biting. But e-collars and other types of dog cones can also be purchased from pet retailers and pet supply companies. These stores and online retailers may have a larger selection of cones to choose from than the plastic ones traditionally acquired through veterinarians. Before purchasing a dog cone from a pet store or online retailer, make sure to discuss whether it is the right option for your pet’s needs.
Problems with Traditional Dog Cones
Important as they are, traditional dog cones aren’t always convenient. If they aren’t fitted properly, says Johnson, cones can make it difficult for dogs to eat or drink.
Fit problems can also result in dogs being able to reach the area that they are supposed to stay away from.
Additionally, plastic cones can be scary for our dogs, as they may amplify sounds or limit your pet’s field of vision.
“Some dogs may completely shut down with the cone on,” says Johnson.
Dog Cone Alternatives
Whether you’ve tried a traditional dog cone collar and it didn’t work, or you’re simply interested in avoiding issues that might crop up with this type of collar in the first place, there are some alternatives.
Each type of collar comes with its positives and negatives, so it might take some trial and error to find the option that’s most comfortable for your particular pet.
Store-Bought Dog Cone Alternatives
If the e-collar provided by your vet isn’t working, here are some store-bought dog cone alternatives to try at home. Just make sure to discuss these options with your veterinarian prior to using one with your dog.
If the hard plastic is a problem, there are dog cone styles that come in a softer option.
“Some of the newer softer collars fold down to make it easier for patients to eat and drink,” says Rossman. “The softer collars that also maintain a shape are good if they are comfortable for your pet and prevent them from licking or chewing the affected areas.”
Be wary of collars that are too soft, however. Softer collars that do not maintain shape can still work, but you’ll want to make sure your pet cannot reach the affected regions.
“Many pets can actually very easily pull a soft e-collar off, since it is more flexible,” says Johnson. “Some pets may actually prefer the traditional hard e-collar to soft, since the soft is not see through, which means they can only truly see directly in front of them.”
Flexible Fabric E-Collars
Some soft e-collars actually come with a hard skeleton as well. “These are my favorite kind of e-collars,” adds Johnson. “Pets cannot see through them, since they are still soft fabric, but the hard skeleton makes it more like a traditional e-collar so it isn’t as easy to take off and it makes it more rigid.”
Inflatable collars are also an option, and they may work in certain cases. However, these collars can puncture easily, so a pet parent should closely monitor the condition of the collar if they choose this option. Additionally, inflatable e-collars may not effectively block access to all parts of the body.
Onesies or Clothing
Bodysuits or onesies are a good option for abdominal surgeries or hotspots that can be covered with them. You can purchase a bodysuit created for this purpose, or you may be able to use a fitted t-shirt (depending on the area that you are trying to protect).
“If your pet is more likely to lick at an incision or wound instead of scratch or bite, this is a good option,” said Dr. Johnson. “It prevents them from getting directly to the site. This can also be an added second line of protection if your pet is Houdini with an e-collar.”
Our Favorite Dog Cone Alternatives
If you are looking for a safe solution to protect your pet without the discomfort of a traditional e-collar, but don’t know where to start—don’t worry. These products are tried and tested to work to protect your pet.
Best Inflatable Collar
Our Pick: Inflatable Recovery Collar
If you want an easy dog cone solution without fuss, this inflatable collar that attaches to your dog’s regular collar is simple to use. The plastic material is a cinch to blow up and you slip it over the collar your dog already wears. We love this because it doesn’t block your dog’s peripheral vision and offers a good range of motion compared to traditional e-collars.
- Easy to inflate and clip to your dog’s collar.
- Doesn’t block your dog’s vision.
- Material is machine washable.
- Comes in six sizes to fit most dogs.
Things to Consider
- If your dog’s injury is on his front paw or leg, this might not provide the necessary protection.
- Only available in one color, but let’s be honest—dog cones aren’t supposed to be fashionable.
Best Soft E-Collar
Some fabric e-collars can be downright flimsy, but the Comfy Cone is a nice cross between something flexible and sturdy. It’s made of foam-backed padded nylon to give it just enough sturdiness without the rigidness of plastic dog cones. One of the nice features is that it can easily be flipped down to the neck and shoulders for eating or drinking, and it’s durable material is simple to wipe clean.
- Velcro closures make it easy to get on and off your dog.
- The material is water resistant and repellent.
- It can be flipped to the neck and shoulders if those are injured areas or for mealtimes.
- It comes with plastic stays so that you can adjust it based on the structure you need.
Things to Consider
- As with other fabric e-collars, this one may not be as durable as traditional plastic ones. However, we’re impressed with this material.
- Sizing seems to run on the small side, so order up if you’re on the fence.
- This collar is hand washable, and not recommended for the washing machine.
Best Fabric E-Collar for Dogs
Our Pick: Alfie Pet Candace Soft Recovery Collar
Fabric collars need to have a flexible skeleton in order to work like a regular e-collar, and that’s what we love about this fabric recovery collar from Alfie Pet. The fabric is stretched over a flexible base, so it’s comfortable, but structured at the same time. And can we talk about the checkered pattern? So cute!
- Closure allows dog owners to tighten and loosen as needed.
- It’s pliable, meaning you can adjust it to your pet’s position.
- It is lightweight and soft, easy to wear for most dogs.
- It doesn’t make the noise of a traditional plastic dog cone.
Things to Consider
- If your dog is really tenacious about licking or biting at a wound, this collar may be too flexible.
- Some reviewers said their dogs were able to figure a way out of this, so supervision is key.
Best Protective Clothing for Dogs
Our Pick: Suitical Recovery Suit for Dogs
If your dog’s stitches or injury is on the torso or stomach, this recovery onesie may be the best option, since it doesn’t limit mobility or vision. The fabric is designed to be breathable and comfortable and fit your dog’s body like a second skin. The suit is unisex and can be used for both male and female dogs. Plus, it’s machine washable—so just throw it in the laundry to clean it.
- Ideal for spay and neuter surgery to prevent licking and biting.
- The fabric is breathable, stretchy, and washable.
- It’s simple to unfasten the back part for bathroom breaks.
- Doesn’t impair vision or mobility at all.
Things to Consider
- Not meant for dogs with wounds to paws or limbs.
- May not correctly fit dogs with unusual body shapes like Dachshunds or Bulldogs.
What About Homemade Dog Cone Alternatives?
Since the purpose of a dog cone is to keep your dog from reaching an affected area, there are options that can be fashioned from materials at home, but Rossman cautions against going this route.
Traditional and store-bought dog cone collars aren’t too expensive, so it’s usually pretty easy to find a vet-approved option from a pet store or directly from your veterinarian’s office.
Although comfort and safety are important when it comes to your dog’s cone options, it’s essential to keep the main objective in mind—preventing your dog from licking, scratching, or otherwise bothering an affected area.
Since that’s the case, be sure to always have a veterinarian check that any collar you decide to go with is properly fitted to your dog, and keep an eye on your pup while they need to wear the cone to prevent injuries.
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