Thursday, February 18, 2010

Introducing the e-collar

As I thought about putting the elizabethan collar on my dog the other night, it struck me that I really didn’t have enough time to properly introduce him to it.
For those who may be unfamiliar with it, the elizabethan collar — commonly called the e-collar — is that plastic cone-shaped thing usually used on pets after surgeries to prevent them from scratching or licking their wounds.
Almost all pets will have an e-collar strapped around their necks at some point in their life, be it for a spay or neuter procedure or for a plethora of other reasons, like emergency surgeries.
The first time we put an e-collar on Sensi was when he was neutered at nine months old. I remember that he came home from the veterinarian’s office with it on. We quickly took it off and, because the dog had 24-hour supervision back then and he never tried biting, licking or scratching at his stitches, we never put it back on him.
That is, until this January.
His allergies were acting up and he was scratching and licking at himself like crazy, creating open wounds on his legs and muzzle. While we were able to stop him when we were around, it was whenever we were gone or asleep that he’d really tear into himself.
I kept that e-collar all these years and, before leaving to visit some relatives for a belated Christmas function, I decided he should wear it.
Five hours later it, I returned home to find my sleeping dog positioned on the other side of the room from the badly mangled e-collar.
Sensi had managed to fold over the e-collar’s edges with his paws, grabbed hold of it with his teeth, pulled it over his head and ripped it up. I’m guessing, obviously, but I think it’s a pretty good guess.
About a month later, Sensi has had surgery on his ear and the ear is now wrapped up in a big bandage. If he were to scratch it, there could be some very serious damage. It is now imperative that he wear the e-collar.
My first concern was ensuring that the e-collar was a good fit and I urge everyone who will have to use an e-collar to talk with their veterinarians and make sure the collar you’re bringing home is the appropriate size.
If the collar is not put on at the veterinarian’s office, you should ask them to show you which setting you should use (like a regular collar, there are different options to make it tighter or looser around the neck) and to demonstrate how to put it all together.
Sensi’s new e-collar is shorter than the last one and the vet encouraged us to use a tighter fit than we would’ve chosen on our own. Fortunately, the snug fit has kept the collar on and prevented any further injuries to his ear.
Rather than just throwing it on your dog one day, though, I encourage people to be proactive about this one.
The fact is, your dog is probably going to have to wear one these collars at some point in his or her life. Why not introduce your dog to it slowly and properly?
This might mean you pick-up the e-collar from the vet’s office a week before your pet is scheduled for surgery. I’m sure your veterinarian would be glad to give it to you in advance (though, these collars are not free, so don’t expect that).
Use treats to introduce it to your dog. Make it a positive thing. Teach your dog that he can go for walks, chew on bones, play tug-of-war and do all his normal and fun activities with the collar on.
Then, when he’s hurting from surgery and feeling downright miserable, you won’t be adding something unfamiliar and scary on top of everything else.


  1. Poor little guy. But he looks cute in it.

  2. My dog had bad skin infections and had to be treated at the vet. He came out of the procedure room wearing an e-collar for the first time, looking miserable.

    Sometimes when he's acting up (biting or scratching), we put it on before we leave the house. But he has no problem with it -- as if it's a pillow for his head. The biggest problem was that it was too big for him to walk around the house, so my husband trimmed the collar and it still does the job without being like a big lampshade around his neck.