When one of our furbabies has an ouchie, and we need to keep them from making it worse by scratching or licking the affected area, they certainly don’t make it easy for us, do they.
Sometimes, we are protecting an eye, ear or wound on the head from being scratched by a back paw. Other times we are preventing the pet from licking a wound, either from an accident or an operation. Depending on which it is, there are many options, and some may fit the purpose better than others.
The go to is the Elizabethan collar, or as it is also known, the E-collar, or cone. A favourite t-shirt of mine was always “It’s all fun and games until someone ends up in a cone” with a dejected looking dog wearing his cone of shame. These are normally made of a plastic material and are slightly flexible, but maintain a rigid barrier.
E-Collars are normally held in place by the pet’s regular collar, which is threaded though loops in the e-collar to prevent it from being taken off over the head. Some have integrated adjustable collars, making them a little sturdier for the job. The way they work is basically putting a physical barrier between the affected area and the potential irritant. These can be very effective in providing the barrier, but they can also be uncomfortable for some pets. Most will tolerate them, but if it is affecting the animal’s mobility or rest, you may want to consider a different option.
There are a number of newer developments in E-collars, opting for a more comfortable and flexible composition. These can be fabric with rigid inserts, or are made of a semirigid set of layers fabric. These can be ideal for smaller pets that may prove harder to get a plastic cone to stay on. They can be more comfortable for the pet, allowing them to rest easier, while still restricting them from harming themselves.
A more recent option is the inflatable collar. They work in a similar way to the standard E-collars, making it difficult to reach the affected areas. Rather than purely using a physical barrier, they also restrict the range of motion of the neck so that the pet can’t physically bend he way they need to to be able to reach the wound. These collars are used with the pet’s collar to hold them in place, and for most pets, they are both effective and comfortable.
Sometimes a collar is not needed, as we can use a shirt, vet wrap or a bootie to protect the wounds. If licking is part of the concern, there are many different anti-lick products. Usually in the form of a spray, they contain ingredients that taste horrible (I’ve accidentally sampled more than one, and they taste bad!) to prevent licking. They can also contain ingredients that aid with reducing itch and helping heal the wound. Sometimes a combination of these two works, wrapping the area and then spraying the wrap or bootie with the anti lick product to stop the pet from taking off the bandage.
As a last resort, some people may choose to muzzle a dog. You have to be very careful with this, nylon muzzles that restrict licking also restrict panting, and can be very dangerous if it is used long term. They are meant to be used for a few minutes, such as trimming nails, or grooming a difficult area. Basket muzzles can be used for extended wear, but most will still allow licking, although in a restricted way.
Whichever method you choose, it is important to monitor the pet after the first time you use it. Make sure it is not a choking hazard, make sure that the pet is comfortable, and if using anti lick sprays, make sure the pet doesn’t like the taste (just like some people enjoy inferno hot wings, some pets like the bitter tastes). After confirming that the chosen method works, check regularly to make sure that the pets hasn’t loosened the collar or managed to work off the bootie/clothing.
It’s not hard to keep our pets safe. There are many solutions, and most are easy to find.