by Jennifer Martiny
“Forsooth and alack, ’tis an awkward plight . . .” muttered Will, the English Mastiff as he tried to maneuver through the doorway and into the lobby after being stitched up. The difficulty caused by the slight sway and stagger from the anesthesia that hadn’t quite worn off was exacerbated by the giant plastic cone — Elizabethan collar — that encircled his head like a . . . well, like an Elizabethan collar.
If you’ve ever had to put one of these monstrously unhandy contraptions on your dog you’ve undoubtedly garnered some experiences that are much funnier when shared now than they were at the time they occurred, particularly if the dog is a large one. Your dog may not be quite so ready to laugh about it; he may never find any of it remotely humorous, well, except maybe for the time he came up behind you and rammed the collar into the back of your legs just right, making your knees buckle while you were carrying that plate of roast beef, gravy and mashed potatoes. Or the morning you were fast asleep — a Sunday; you were sleeping in after a late night of indiscreet alcoholic indulgence — and he woke you by lining that big plastic megaphone up with the side of your head and barking from the center of it. Yeah, he got a kick out of that; kind of gratifying for him not to be the only one who’s ever piddled on himself in fright.
Oh, wait. Now you’re thinking maybe that collar wasn’t all that amusing?
The ideal way to avoid undergoing that brand of torture again is for your dog to not ever have stitches or a wound of any sort that requires he not fiddle with it, lick it, gnaw at it or touch it in any way with his mouth, but you know the odds aren’t stacked in your favor for that. Somehow, someway, someday, you and your dog are going to have to endure the indignities of The Collar again.
There are alternatives. Not all vets are aware of them or, sadly, even care that they’re available, but it’s your job, anyway, as a responsible dog owner with some instincts for self preservation and an attachment to your sanity, to make yourself aware of treatment options.
Perhaps the simplest is an improvement on the existing design. Most soft cones aren’t quite as tall as the old plastic ones, allowing the patient to eat and drink more easily. They are also soft! That means no more leaving bruises when you get whacked on the back of the legs with one. It also means your dog can shove it down and away from his face, too, which means you have to be more vigilant since he will be likely to be able to get to whatever it is he’s not supposed to be touching. Still, it’s better than its predecessor.
Part of the problems with the old E-collars are their hard edges and the way they interfere with a pet’s peripheral vision. The lack of vision is disorienting and is the cause of many bruises for the owner along with damage to walls and furniture from the combination of the hard edges of the collar and inability of the animal to see where it’s going. Someone got smart and designed one that has a padded rim as well as being made from transparent material so peripheral vision is unimpaired. It is also designed to have a wider bell and not be as deep. The drawback to this design is that on a large dog, the collar is going to have a much wider span from side to side, making it more difficult to walk through a doorway or a room without hitting something.
Another choice is a flat type collar. It’s wide enough to reach from the base of the dog’s skull to the point where the neck begins to curve into the shoulders, keeping a dog from being able to bend his neck back to reach any regions of his anatomy that are off limits. Most of these collars are further secured by a strap that wraps over the shoulders and under the chest to keep a determined dog from being able to shove it off over his head.
Cousin to the flat collar is the inflatable ring. It’s soft, easier for the animal to sleep in and go about the daily business of living, doesn’t impede vision or hurt if your dog rams it into the back of your legs. It can be used as a flotation device for an animal that’s getting hydrotherapy as part of recovery.
These alternatives can generally be found at a reasonable price online and are a good addition to your pet first aid kit.