Dog E-Collar: Is It A Necessity? Are There Any Alternatives?

Remember this post where I bragged about us not having to use an E-collar with our dog after TPLO surgery because he wasn’t all that interested in licking his surgical wound?

And remember how proud I was that every time we could tell that he was thinking about licking at the site of the incision, we would immediately scold him with “NO LICK!” — which would scare him enough not to want to lick?

Well, much to my dismay, our Tenor dog changed his mind. In the 20 minutes we left him alone while we caught up on things around the house the other day, Tenor had enough time to discover what it was like to lick his wounds.

And it wasn’t pretty.

shy-dog-stopped-licking-wound

While he didn’t do much damage, he did make it bleed a bit. This was Day 7 after surgery, so there really wasn’t much to bleed at this point. The wound, while still tender, was fairly well healed, believe it or not.

Turns out the moist blood droplet we saw after Tenor’s solitary licking session was actually coming from between the folds in a doubled-over surgical site. Meaning, they folded a part of Tenor’s leg skin over itself to create an extra thick suture (and probably a very thick scar when it’s all said and done).

Anyway, there was no “leaking” blood, as we had experienced before with our other dog’s surgery. Tenor had just moistened the area quite well.

Not ideal, mind you. But not life-threatening either.

Nonetheless, we learned that we can’t take our eyes off of him for a MOMENT until those stitches had completely disentigrated!

The worst part… immediately after it happened, now that he had the taste of blood in him and he had “awakened” that part of his leg, he couldn’t seem to get his attention off of it. Every chance he got, he felt the urge to lick it.

Thus began our nightly routine of using the E-collar (Elizabethan collar).

our-dog-wearing-ecollar

 

E-Collar To The Rescue!

To tell you the truth, I wish so badly that we had given in to using the E-collar earlier.

We didn’t because we felt bad for the dog. We thought he would be “scared” of it or feel “punished”.

Pfft! No need to feel bad for something that will protect your dog and make him heal faster. (And get you a few extra hours of sleep!)

If I had this to do all over again, I would definitely use the E-collar at night (and any time we had to leave him alone), simply for our sanity. You cannot watch a dog 24 hours a day, no matter what you think. We tried. We failed. It wasn’t a major ordeal, just a lesson learned.

I also think it happened when it did because at Day 7 post-op, his skin was getting especially dry and itchy. Even flaky. So it was more noticeable to him.

Okay, so now I am a sincere advocate of e-collars.

We’ve been using it for the past 3 nights now. So far so good.

We all get a good night’s sleep. And his leg heals faster.

In fact, I think Tenor may actually like the E-collar!

Within moments of me putting the E-collar on him, he’s out like a light and snoring like freight train.

Maybe it helps him “tune out” things a bit… he definitely seems to sleep well when he’s wearing it.

dog-just-hanging-out-with-ecollar

 

Alternatives To Traditional E-Collars

The doctor who did Tenor’s TPLO surgery tacked on an additional $17 for the E-collar he sent us home with. (It’s a Large size “25” for our 75 lb dog.)

Now I’m intrigued to see what they really cost, and what other types of E-collars might be out there.

I’m guessing there are some new dog E-collars that are less awkward, less intrusive, and maybe even simpler to attach.

Here’s what I’ve learned…

 

Old-Fashioned E-Collars

The most commonly used and usually effective measure is the collar that fits around the neck and prevents the dog from having access to the area … The Elizabethan collar looks like a lampshade and surrounds the pet’s head, preventing him from getting to the wounded area. The disadvantage is that it takes the pet a few days to get used to the collar. They bang into furniture, walls, the floor and your legs; some will not eat. Fortunately, the collar can be removed when you are around to supervise and easily replaced when you are not available. One advantage is that the collar also prevents your pet from being able to scratch at any injuries or wounds on the face.How To Stop Your Dog From Licking

Traditional E-collars come in all shapes, sizes, and colors these days.

Best of all, they make fun pet stickers for hard plastic E-collars! How fun is that?…

 

Modern E-Collars For Dogs

Another neck collar is based on the principle that if the pet cannot turn his head to get at the injured area, he cannot lick. These firm collars fit around the neck similar to a neck brace. The pet is not able to flex his head enough to get at the wound. These collars do not work too well if the injury is on the front legs but does prevent the pet from contorting and reaching his side or back end.How To Stop Your Dog From Licking

Most of these newer versions of the traditional E-collar don’t have the same thick lampshade “cone” effect. Instead, they are generally softer, more flexible, and a tad less claustrophobic for the dog.

While designed to keep enough space between your dog’s mouth and his other parts, their effectiveness is dependent on your dog and how aggressively they can work around this obstacle.

I would say that it is slightly easier for a dog to manipulate these softer E-collars than it is for him to outwit the standard lampshade E-collar that has been recommended by veterinarians for years. But if you’re looking for an alternative to the E-collar, these are definitely worth a try!

Some alternatives to the traditional E-collar:

  • The Comfy Cone is made by All Four Paws. It’s collapsible, foldable, yet rigid and strong. It can even be folded back so your dog can eat or drink.
  • Trimline makes a soft recovery collar — but it seems rather thin and less durable than some of the others. Probably better for cats than dogs.
  • Neck’s Best Thing (formerly Hagar Collars) are multi-sized and adjustable to fit every dog.
  • The ProCollar has an inflatable inner bladder that is protected by a pliable plastic outer jacket lined with a durable canvas material to resist your dog’s bites and scratches. Seems a tad bulky around the neck to me. They do have a slew of testimonials.
  • BiteNot Products makes the BiteNot Collar which is a flexible plastic and foam collar that is washable.
  • The Kong Company makes soft e-collars for dogs, in addition to the hard plastic cone-shaped ones mentioned above.

And finally, here’s another great alternative to using a dog E-collar:

dog-ecollar-alternatives

By putting dog boots (aka muttluks) on each of your dog’s paws, your dog will be less inclined to scratch himself while wearing them!

This works best where the dog’s injury is confined to the head or upper body area — because the dog would still be able to lick other spots on the body with ease.

 

Summary

One thing you should know is that the standard E-collar prevents your dog from being able to scratch at any injuries or wounds on the face, whereas most of the other soft collars and neck brace types of E-collars don’t offer this same level of protection.

Regardless of which type of E-collar you choose, just know that some very persistent dogs may become frustrated enough with it that they will either manage to get the collar off or still be able to reach the wound area.

And no matter which type you choose, you still need to keep an eye on your dog until you learn his level of acceptance with the type of recovery collar you’ve chosen. I know with the traditional E-collar it typically takes a couple days for a dog to get used to wearing it. My guess is the adjustment period would be about the same with a softer collar as well — simply for the fact that they’ll have something strange around their neck that they’re not used to.

 

UPDATE #1:

A total of 5 nights with the E-collar were all that we needed with Tenor after TPLO surgery. It was just during that time when his leg got dry and itchy, and when left alone, he was inclined to lick at it. Now, at exactly 2 weeks post-op, Tenor’s incision “looks” completely healed. While still tender, you can’t see the stitches anymore, and his leg isn’t so dry anymore either. Now, we’re back to just watching him closely, but he’s more interested in walking on it at this point, and less interested in licking it. Yay!

dog-e-collars

UPDATE #2:

I have since used an inflatable dog collar with great results. It was for a hot spot many years after my dog’s TPLO surgery. Here’s my review of inflatable dog collars.

Lynnette Walczak

I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money -- so I frequently write about "outside the box" ideas that most wouldn't think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed several years until switching gears to pursue things I was more passionate about. I've worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo -- to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun websites).

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  • Steph

    Hi! I just wanted to let you know that there is FINALLY an alternative to the E-Collar! Nurtured Pets, a company dedicated to the health and wellness of pets, came out with a bandage called the Anti-LickStrip . This bandage is made of natural ingredients that deter pets from obsessively licking, biting or chewing at surgical sites, hot spots, wounds or sores. The Anti-Lick Strip is now being used in Veterinary Clinics throughout the world as an alternative to the E-Collar! To learn more about Nurtured Pets and their products, go to http://www.nurturedpets.com

  • Jive Dadson

    Ah ha. You’ve seen a demonstration why scolding does not work. It only makes the dog afraid to do the forbidden thing when the scolder is around. I rescued a stray a few months ago that initially would not eliminate when I was present. He would go as soon as I was not around, which was always when he was in the house. No doubt a previous owner had scolded him or worse for going inside. The “inside” part was lost on the dog. All the dog knew was that when he did what had to be done, the huge, mostly hairless creature became unstable.

    All better now.

    Best wishes for a quick recovery for your pet.

  • Curzj

    Beware o blow up inner tube collars! My dog required ACL repair surgery and i bought one to make it easier for her.What a mistake she had a severe allergic reaction! Cost me another $560.00 at the vet and the discomfort added to her surgery! If your pets have allergies stay clear from any kind of rubber, latex, etc! Please your pet will thank you!

  • Guest

    I agree. Our dog has allergies and despite the vets recommended dosage of Benadryl every day, she still licks her fett constantly. We have tried everything to stop this – even paid $9 for 2 “lick proof” bandages which lasted about 1 hr before she licked right thru the pepper and got them off. We avoided the e-collar for the usual reasons and now are strong advocates of them. They work!

  • Zilvias13

    guys, pets hate the darn e-collar. My dog was attacked by a raccoon, sliced her belly up. collar did not do much good, you know the problems, dogs always take it off, so i searched around and have found a alternative. look for yourself at scrubsforpets.com ( i am not the owner or anything, i just want to share my find with you.

  • Ginger

    Poor Tenor! I’ve tried many e-collars over the years, but my favorite is the “Cuddle Cone”, which is a sturdy foam cone with fleece on the inside and adjustable velcro. It’s very firm and does the job, but is also comfortable on your pet. I got mine at http://www.designerecollars.com, but have also seen them at the vet’s office on occassion. If you have to use a cone, it’s nice to have one that’s comfy and soft for your pet.

  • http://wagtailfarms.com Jamie

    Check out the “Neck-Hug” a new soft e collar from wagtailfarms.com

  • maudcorinna

    yes, a terrible extra pain for the doggies to wear that thing ! But THERE ARE alternatives: Quite intelligent are the products of Provizor Australia, the Optivizor ( a vizor to protect the dogs eye and face) and the Novaguard to keep it from licking. They are smaller, sit tight and leave the ears outside the mask. In Europe you get them from http://www.aniprotec.com , but they are also available in the US and Down Under, of course ! See Provizor’s webpage http://www.provizorinternational.com for buying details. My dog wore  it for several weeks – and was fine with it in conrarry to the collar….

  • Mike

    How do wounds heal when they constantly lay on them? Our dog had radiation on her rear leg, we use the e-collar at nite and when we need to leave the room for a couple minutes. She lays on it and it stays red ?

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      It must be okay for your dog to lay on it – otherwise your vet would have made other arrangements.

  • Joseph Ancholli

    Hi Lynnette,
    Good article…very informative. My dog hated wearing her e-collar after surgery so I looked high and low for a suitable alternative and just before I gave up I found a product called the “Onesie by Tui”. It’s what they’re calling a “post-surgery pet garment” and works by covering the area of the incision so your dog/cat cannot lick or chew at it. I was somewhat skeptical at first but they’re reasonably priced so I took a chance and it really paid off. My dog seemed comfortable wearing it and it even had a little flap that quickly buttoned up for when she needed to go outside to do her business. It was convenient for me and much more comfortable for my pup. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an alternative to the e-collar. You can order them online here: http://www.tulanescloset.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/marie.stoves Marie Stoves

    Our dalmatian found that she could use the e-collar to ‘scoop and toss’ snow at our daughter. they had a grerat time

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      Oh that’s funny! I can just see it too :-D