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

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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.


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).



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.



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:


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.



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.



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!



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.