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 of shame” around their head is a dead giveaway.
But while dog cones are a nuisance for dogs—and a bit funny looking to pet parents—they actually serve an important purpose.
If your pup is miserable and a traditional e-collar isn’t working, there are plenty of dog cone 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.
Our Top Dog Cone Alternatives
- Best Inflatable Collar: ZenPet ZenCollar Inflatable Recovery Collar
- Best Protective Clothing for Dogs: Suitical Recovery Suit for Dogs
- Best Soft E-Collar: The Original Comfy Cone Soft Recovery Collar
- Best Soft Inflatable Collar: Bencmate Protective Inflatable Collar
- Best Fabric E-Collar: Alfie Pet Candace Soft Recovery Collar
- Most Versatile Dog Cone Alternative: ARRR Comfy UFO Pet Recovery Collar
- Cutest Dog Cone Alternative: VITAL-FRI Protective Inflatable Collar
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.
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.
Types of 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.”
7 Best Dog Cone Alternatives
All featured products are chosen at the discretion of the author. However, Great Pet Care may make a small affiliate commission if you click through and make a purchase.
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
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 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.
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 Soft Inflatable Collar for Dogs
Our Pick: Bencmate Protective Inflatable Collar
If your dog isn’t down for plastic inflatable collars due to noise or a scratchy feel, this plush inflatable option from Bencmate is ideal. The cloth cover is comfortable for dogs to wear, but this dog cone alternative still offers plenty of protection from biting, scratching or licking. It features an adjustable strap, so you can secure it correctly around your dog’s neck and it comes in five different sizes to accommodate a large variety of sizes and breeds. Better yet, the cloth cover comes off and can be thrown in the washing machine for cleaning, and this collar can be deflated when you’re finished and put away for no-hassle storage.
- Soft and plush for extra comfort
- Available in five different sizes
- Easy-to-secure adjustable neck strap
- Removable cover is machine washable
Things to Consider
- Some dogs—especially larger ones—may still be able to reach incisions or sores with this type of inflatable collar. Pay close attention to the size when ordering
- Heavy chewers or biters can pop this, so always supervise your dog when it’s on
- Does not come with any kind of air pump to inflate the collar
Best Fabric E-Collar for Dogs
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.
Most Versatile Dog Cone Alternative
Our Pick: ARRR Comfy UFO Pet Recovery Collar
While this soft dog recovery collar may look like it belongs in outer space, it really does the job for recovering pups here on earth. What we like most about this flexible option is that it can be adjusted and positioned in a variety of ways that helps to protect your pet no matter where the injury or problem area is. It can be worn up in a traditional cone shape or pushed down on a dog’s body, which is perfect if your dog is eating or drinking. We also love the fact that this collar is comfortable and dogs don’t have a problem sleeping while it’s on.
- Looks cooler than most dog cone options
- Available in five different sizes
- Very easy to remove dog hair from the collar
- Water resistant
- Won’t block a dog’s vision
Things to Consider
- The drawstring that cinches the collar around a dog’s neck can be a bit flimsy. May not be ideal for heavy chewers
- If you want to use this to prevent your dog from licking their paws, it may not be suitable
Cutest Dog Cone Alternative
Our Pick: VITAL-FRI Protective Inflatable Collar
If your dog has to wear the cone of shame, you might as well have a little fun with it! This inflatable recovery collar from VITAL-FRI is designed like a donut—and we’re loving it. The bright yellow color and sprinkle designs are sure to bring a smile to the faces of anyone your dog encounters. But as cute as it is, this inflatable recovery collar is also practical. It is easy to put on and can be attached to your dog’s collar for added security. The adorable donut cover is removable and can be machine washed. Plus, this collar won’t interfere with your dog when they are eating or drinking.
- Downright adorable design
- Machine washable cover
- Adjustable neck strap for a custom fit
- Comes in four different sizes
- Comes with a money-back guarantee
Things to Consider
- It may need to be reinflated frequently for the best results
- Depending on your dog’s injury, it may not prevent them from getting to the area
- The zipper on the cover is not very strong. Be careful when taking the cover on and off
Dog Cone FAQs
Why do dogs wear cones?
Dogs wear cones, or e-collars, to prevent them from licking or biting at areas on their body. Cones and cone alternatives are traditionally used after surgical procedures, like spay and neuter surgeries, to prevent them from licking or biting at sutures. Dog cones are also used to prevent dogs from biting at or licking skin injuries or paw injuries.
What can I use instead of a dog cone?
Any dog cone alternative including inflatable collars, flexible and soft fabric e-collars, and clothing like onesies and bodysuits can be used instead of a traditional e-collar. Make sure whatever you decide to use protects the affected area from your dog’s biting or licking.
How long does a dog need to wear a cone after spay or neuter surgery?
Dogs typically need to wear a cone or cone alternative for 10 to 14 days after a spay or neuter procedure. This gives the incision enough time to heal and it’s important to keep the cone on during this time to prevent infection or complications. While this is an average time frame, it’s important to follow your own veterinarian’s advice for when to remove the cone.
Can a dog sleep in a crate with a cone?
Yes, a dog can sleep in a crate with a cone. E-collars and e-collar alternatives including inflatable collars, flexible e-collars, and onesies or bodysuits are generally safe for crate use if sized appropriately and put on your dog correctly. Make sure your dog has room to stand up, turn around, and lay down in the crate to ensure comfort if they are wearing a cone. If your dog is at risk of popping an inflatable e-collar or chewing parts of a dog cone, talk to your veterinarian to ensure safety before using the product in your dog’s crate.
How should a cone fit on a dog?
Whether you are using a traditional e-collar or a dog cone alternative, fit is incredibly important. Make sure to measure your dog’s neck according to manufacturer instructions and order the appropriate size according to the size chart. When fitting the cone on your dog, it should be tight enough so your dog’s head cannot slip out. You should be able to place two stacked fingers comfortably between your dog’s neck and the cone to ensure comfort. The cone should not hit against the floor when your dog is walking.
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 cone alternatives 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.
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.