Features August 2010 Issue

Comfortable Dog Cone Alternatives

Alternatives to classic “Elizabethan” collars are more comfortable and just as effective for your dog.

My mother once phoned me to tell me that one of our family dogs, an oversized German Shepherd, had required surgery for an embedded foxtail in one of his back paws. She told me that the vet sent her home with a gigantic plastic disc that she understood was to be put on the dog, to prevent him from licking or chewing his bandage or paw. Giggling, my mother told me, “Your father put it together . . . but how do I put it on the dog? I mean, is he supposed to look like a tulip or a prince?”

The classic veterinarian-supplied Elizabethan collar: Effective, but heavy, stiff, opaque (your dog can’t see through it), wide, unwieldy, and uncomfortable.

I could understand her confusion. The dog was so leggy that he actually could wear the Elizabethan collar either way; wearing a conventional “cone” like a “prince” would render dogs with shorter legs immobile. In contrast, most dogs have to wear these protective cones the way in which they were designed to be worn – like a dejected, bumbling tulip. Most dogs are miserable while wearing a classic, veterinary-supplied cone. Lacking peripheral visibility, they crash into furniture and doorways. With the wide, flaring cone, they get stuck in tight spots in the house.

Every dog owner should be aware that, today, there are a number of alternatives to the classic Elizabethan collars to prevent a dog from licking a wound, aggravating a hot spot, tearing out his surgical stitches, or removing a bandage. The alternatives offer a dog greater comfort, better mobility, and improved visibility.

Cons of classic cones

Are the classic plastic cones really all that bad? It depends on which dog you ask. Some dogs seem to accept the weight of the heavy plastic, the restricted visibility imposed by the opaque material, the need for increased clearances around the house, and even being gouged by the thick plastic tabs that are supposed to be belted by the dog’s collar at the base of the cone.

But many dogs seem to suffer more from the cones than from whatever necessitated their use! I’ve known many dogs who wouldn’t eat or drink with a cone on. I’ve seen some dogs who, after bashing into doorways and furniture, became extremely reluctant to move – or even lift their bodies or heads from the floor – as long as the cone was on.

Very recently, this very thing happened to a friend’s Shetland Sheepdog, Rickey, who had to undergo a long and complicated surgery. His surgeon removed a large (but fortunately benign) tumor that had surrounded the poor little dog’s esophagus, stomach, and other areas in his abdominal cavity, leaving a surgical scar almost the entire length of Rickey’s tummy. After a day or two of recovery in the hospital, the veterinarian sent Rickey home with a classic, heavy, opaque cone to keep him from fussing at his stitches.

Rickey’s family was delighted to have him home. But the usually spunky Sheltie seemed depressed, deflated by difficulties with his Elizabethan collar.

And so his owner called me; we had communicated about Rickey all through his long illness, diagnosis, and even the surgery. “He may be in pain from the operation,” she told me. “But honestly, I think he’s far more upset about the cone!” She asked me if I knew of anything she could do to keep Rickey from bothering his stitches . . . but without making him as miserable as he was with the cone.

If you and your dog were ever in a similar position, and you called your vet for advice, you were probably told that being quiet was good for the dog, and that it was just as well that the cone reduced his activity. There is a certain value to the advice; you certainly don’t want a post-surgical dog to race around the house. But what if he won’t even eat or drink, or fails to walk around enough to eliminate urine and feces as frequently as he should?

I knew there were alternatives to the classic cones – and that all of them are more comfortable for dogs. I also knew that WDJ hadn’t reviewed those alternatives for quite some time. So I made a list of other products designed for the same purpose as classic cones, and told my friend to buy every one that fit Rickey and give them all a try. WDJ would repay her – and take them off her hands when she was done. You know, in exchange for a little product feedback?

Glad to have something to do to help Rickey, my friend’s husband raced all over the Bay Area, picking up products in a variety of pet supply stores. The good news: While Rickey was unable to lick or chew at his sutures while wearing any of the products, he was happier (and hungrier) in every single alternative product than he was when wearing the classic veterinary-supplied cone. His legendary appetite quickly returned, as did his spunk and spark (and bark!).

Not long after Rickey had his stitches removed, he modeled all the products for my camera. I can attest that the dreaded white classic cone literally depressed the underweight (but gaining!) Sheltie. In contrast, he appeared considerably brighter with the alternatives.

Next: Pro Collar

Comments (19)

There's another alternative not mentioned. It's called a Cover Me and is sort of like a onesie for a dog. The only downside I can see is that a dog might try to chew through it, but the maker says this isn't a problem. I've not yet used this on a dog but I do have clients who have and they love it. I know it can be found on Amazon or on the Cover Me site www.tulanescloset.com/

Posted by: Samajade | October 18, 2014 4:35 PM    Report this comment

Kong now also sells a doughnut collar like was pictured made by ProCollar as I have one for my GSD.

Posted by: 376NYC | October 15, 2014 4:36 PM    Report this comment

Here is one of Many reviews we have received here at Wag Tail Farms www.wagtailfarms.com home of the "Neck Hug" soft Elizabethan Collars for Pets: "Dear Wagtail Farms, Thank you sincerely for the wonderful Neck Hug! We give your Neck Hugs 10/10 stars! Bill, my male cat, loves his Neck Hug so much, everyone can see it in his face and attitude. He is so much more comfortable and relaxed. With the old hard cone, he hated having his ears mashed which caused him to move in a crouched position everywhere, hated having his doctor-ordered wet food get all over the inside of the cone, and was constantly startled when the hard cone would make noise and jar his neck when he bumped obstacles or jumped off the bed. He even avoided the litter box because he couldn't get in it without catching the hard cone on the edge. Your Neck Hug solved all of these problems! Thanks to your Neck Hug, he loves having his ears free, not feeling like he has to crouch, and the softness of the Neck Hug allows him to move freely and jump without discomfort or alarm. He can eat and drink with ease and can lounge around comfortably, like a cat should. There is no doubt in my mind that his healing process will be considerably smoother and speedier because of the increased comfort and happiness that your Neck Hug provides. I was also extremely impressed with the quality of the Neck Hug, adorableness, as well as the speediness and quality of service. I will certainly be recommending Neck Hugs to everyone! Thanks again for your superior product and service! Sincerely, Summer & Bill ~ Norman, OK"

Posted by: Wag Tail Farms | November 9, 2012 4:34 PM    Report this comment

I have to agree with sdpetprojects. IMHO, Cuddle Cone is far superior to the Comfy Cone, both in comfort and firmness. Not to mention appearance, since it's also cute! The Comfy Cone has a tendency to collapse on itself, where the Cuddle Cone is firmer. I think the fleece lining keeps the dog from fighting it as much, since it does look very comfortable. At least it worked better for my Lhasa(allergy itching) and Aussie (knee injury) I got one on Amazon, and one at designerecollars.com. They're both the same seller, just much more selection on their own site. Haven't tried the inflatables, but am curious about those. Good luck, all!

Posted by: nichole | June 1, 2012 4:23 PM    Report this comment

3 other options to look into are boobooloon, provizor and optivizor (eye surgeries)

Posted by: Jenny S | May 15, 2012 9:00 PM    Report this comment

Forget the Comfy Cone for small- to medium-sized dogs. I bought one for my 22-lb. Cocker after surgery. The flat panels do not conform to the head shape of a small dog, they transmit no light at all (which at least the typical plastic cone does), and they restrict the field of sight considerably more than regular cones. She hated it and I can see why; comfort isn't everything - this is just bad design for small- to medium-sized dogs. Some of the other soft collars in this article look like they're worth trying the next time she needs to be kept from chewing or itching a healing wound, though.

Posted by: Diana B | May 15, 2012 7:43 PM    Report this comment

I used the plastic inflated ProCollar with great success. Wish I could post a photo!

Posted by: muriel33 | May 15, 2012 7:08 PM    Report this comment

The procollar serves another useful purpose for owners of dogs with megaesophagus. A dog with megaE has enlarged esophagus and food goes in and drops into a pouch rather than working it's way to the stomach. Such a dog must be fed in an upright position (beg position, some use a device called a Bailey chair) and then must sit in this position for a while so food can slide down with gravity's help and get into the stomach. At night, these dogs will regurgitate what hasn't left the throat and that can wind up sometimes aaspirating back into the lungs and cause pneumonia. MegaE owners now will use a procollar to keep their dog's head elevated when it is in a lying position, thus causing regurg to return to the throat. It's a dual-use "e" collar.

Posted by: Myshiloh | May 15, 2012 12:09 PM    Report this comment

I'm not a fan of the hard plastic e-collars either. I've had 1 dog who was fine in it (I have pictures of her wrestling with her fur-brother whilst wearing it), my 2nd dog hated it & wouldn't move with it on. So when we got our current dog I decided to get something new. I ended up getting the Comfy Cone. At the time I hadn't seen it on sale here in Australia so I got one sent over from the US. Finally the day came when it was going to be used - Willow was being spayed. She came home & didn't once show the slightest bit of interest in her incision! So there sits the Comfy Cone - never having been used!!

Posted by: Muriel N | May 15, 2012 9:02 AM    Report this comment

I have been rescuing special needs dogs of all sizes for years, so I've had a lot of experience with elizabethan collars. I've used the Comfy Cone but, as you mention, it can be a little too pliable for the determined dog. My favorite so far is the "Cuddle Cone", which is still comfortable for the dog, but seems to hold its shape better and longer. It also has a soft fleece lining, which is nice for your pet. You can Google it to find a retailer, but I got mine at www.DesignerEcollars.com

Posted by: sdpetprojects | January 28, 2012 10:09 PM    Report this comment

My 1 yr old lab was neutered on Monday Dec. 5th. He was sent home with a Soft-E-Collar and at this point I'm ready to let him rip his stitches out. At first it was wonderful - until he figured out that he can grab the edges and chew them to shreds. He's working his way to the inner areas too. I have been sleeping on the chair so as to not have to stuff him and the cone into his crate. I also have a pro collar and comfy cone and neither of those are good for him. They either drive him crazy or make him freeze up LOL (yes he's crazy). He also has worms so I can't let him near his butt until the meds kick in. The Bite Not looks good but he's at the area where the needle was in on his front leg and in his exercise restricted state , and as he has shown when he slipped out of the Soft-E-Collar, he goes to town on his front leg. I can't wait until he's healed!!!

Posted by: Nancy P | December 10, 2011 5:20 AM    Report this comment

My six month old Sheltie, Sami, was neutered on February 8. I wish I had read this article prior to his surgery because it has been dreadful having him wear this large, hard plastic cone. It is huge because although Sami's neck is only 11 inches his nose is long - like you expect a Sheltie to have and he could reach his stitches with the cone that fit his neck size. When we brought him home wearing the cone he first shook his head in a fit as if he was manic. Once he realized he couldn't get it off he simply laid on the floor. He wouldn't eat unless I hand feed him and he wouldn't drink water. I had to feed him ice chips and moniter his urine output to make sure he was hydrated. We read about the ProCollar about 8 days after the surgery by which time he had started to eat and would walk with me in the yard. I called our Vet who had no experience at all with the ProCollar. We talked with a clerk at the pet store and didn't purchase the ProCollar because we were concerned that if it didn't work Sami might tear his stitches and we would be back to Day 1 with the cone. I read some reviews on the ProCollar and some dogs punctured the collar causing it to deflate which allowed the dog to bite their wound or stitches. However, I read about some collars that had a canvas interior so I think there are different manufacturers. Another alternative I read about is the Thunder Shirt which is a Shirt that wraps around and is secured with velcro. It didn't seem long enough and I was afraid the velcro would be easily removed by Sami. It is now only 4 days until Sami's stitches will be removed and thank goodness this horrible cone with be gone. However, Sami did an amazing job of adapting. I throw him his ball and while he cannot see it he listens for the sound of the bounce and when it hits the floor he runs in that direction, finds it and runs back to me. Our Vet said Sami couldn't play outside because he would get dirt in the wound but today he was bouncing off the walls with the need to run so 10 days post-op I let him run to his hearts content outside. I wiped his stitches with a warm, soapy cloth but he really wasn't dirty. If Sami needs surgery in the future (and my first two Shelties both had several surgeries over the course of their lifetimes), I will be prepared with a comfortable alternative to the hard, plastic cone. However, I am very disappointed that my Vet has made no efforts to investigate alternatives to the hard cones which are simply unacceptable.

Posted by: Anne R | February 18, 2011 2:20 AM    Report this comment

I used the Jorgensen one for my older dog when she had surgery a few years ago and she seemed much better in that than the rigid plastic one. I have used that same cone on two other dogs since then and they seem much more active with that one. I did need to get a new one and I found that you can order them through www.jorvet.com (search for j1003). They are cheaper there than anywhere else online. Just FYI if anyone was looking for them. I think they work best for smaller, lower to the ground, dogs that have difficulties with the plastic cone.

Posted by: Rascals Mommy | February 3, 2011 3:52 PM    Report this comment

My dog is getting ready to have surgery on his lower eyelids to correct for entropion. He is 100# and the hard plastic cone the vet provides is not an option due to it's size, weight, and the fact that it absolutely paralyzes him the minute we put it on. Also, because the issue is not him chewing at stitches on his body but rather preventing him from scratching at his face, he definitely needs the cone shape/length to shield his face from his scratching paws. I found and tried the Comfy Cone and, while the size and weight were definitely better than the standard vet cone, he was still miserable. We practiced for several days, increasing the time he wore the cone each day. By the 3rd day, he'd run and hide when he saw it. Once he had it on, he wouldn't walk more than a few steps and I never could get him to step onto his bed or lie down. The sound of the velcro opening right next to his ears freaked him out and trying to turn the cone back so he could eat was difficult to do with the cone on and just agitated him further. After EXTENSIVE searching, I found the Trimline Veterinary Soft Recovery Collar (sold at Amazon.com and various other online stores) and was hopeful it might do the trick. I ordered it and I liked the look of it the minute I pulled it out of the box. It goes over his head and ties at the neck with a drawstring tie meaning no scary Velcro noise. It is the same general size/shape of the standard cones, but is very lightweight, very flexible, and somewhat wider at the snout end than the other 2 cones we tried so his vision is not compromised. He let me put it on him with no problem and immediately followed me around the house as usual as if he didn't have anything on. When he ran into things with it on (an unavoidable trait of any such collar), the cone would bend to accommodate his movement instead of stopping him short and poking into him. By day 2, he wore it for over an hour with no problems. I cannot speak to how successfully it will prevent him from scratching at his face (he has not had his surgery yet) but, since it's size/shape mimic the vet cone and the Comfy Cone, I believe it will do the trick.

Posted by: iloverufus | January 1, 2011 1:04 PM    Report this comment

Why cant u just put a T-shirt on the animal. I do after i administer the hot spot lotion for my dog and it doesnt bother him , but i know that cone would drive him mad for sure!

Posted by: Mary J S | September 26, 2010 1:37 PM    Report this comment

My dog is like a bull in a china shop, when she *doesn't* have a cone on. This article came just in time--I couldn't order any of these products in time when she destroyed my terrarium and cut her leg in the process, but inspired by this article, I took the foam/foil sun shade out of my car, traced around an e-collar I had in the basement, and duct taped it together and around her collar. I can fold it back for her to eat and her mobility/comfort seems great. She doesn't like to eliminate while wearing it, though.

Posted by: Seana P | August 18, 2010 7:11 AM    Report this comment

There is a better one. Get a basket that is as tall as your dogs is from where it's neck meets the body, to past the end of it's extended muzzle. It should be woven so you can see through it. Then cut a hole in the bottom slightly larger than the dog's neck. Then cut from the hole to the top away from the handles if there are any. Line the hole with masking tape. Open it up and put around dog's neck. Butt or lap the edges. Weave a string , like lacing * bottom to keep the opening closed. Voila. For $1.00 at the dollar store you have a custom made item. You can also tie it to the dogs collar or harness for added security. Those cones from the vet are a waste.. A few swats and the flimsy connections are open. *shoes , from the top to the I've used these on Rottweilers and they never came off.

Posted by: FEsrigoHL | August 6, 2010 4:46 PM    Report this comment

One of our dogs broke a hind leg. He hated the cone. i took the dog to the pet store and got a plastic covered wire muzzle. He took to it instantly. Of course, I have to remove it for him to eat and drink, however he'll get through the healing process a whole lot easier than wearing that plastic cone!

Posted by: 3 Dog Mom | July 31, 2010 6:17 PM    Report this comment

For foot chewing, I am going to try vet wrap instead of the comfy cone next time. It worked. But I felt sorry for the dog. The flexible collar did not deter my 12 pd. dog. I was glad when the come came off. Every April/May we have the same thing. I believe it is an allergic reaction to the trees pollenating.

Posted by: Nancyk | July 29, 2010 11:49 PM    Report this comment

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