Skip had surgery last Friday to remove his internal testicle (unilaterally cryptorchid), because of its higher probability of causing testicular cancer. (This issue… neutering or the removal of one testicle, is a huge one, and controversial at that. I started to delve into it as part of today’s post, but decided to wait for that discussion when life is a bit more, uh, settled. I simply don’t have it in me to be who I want to be right now if the discussion heats up. Let’s shelve talking about it for a few weeks, but get back to it soon. Promise.)
What I want to talk about today are ways to inhibit or stop dogs from causing injury to previous injuries or surgery sites by licking or nibbling. Needless to say, I started a few weeks ago in order to prepare for Skip’s surgery. I had no idea how Skip would respond, but wanted to be ready if he began to lick the site and cause problems.
I settled on getting a Bencmate inflatable collar (good reviews, good price), and so much easier on a dog than the huge, hard, and horrible “cones of shame” that used to be commonly used, like this one in the photo below:
I’ve always hated these, although they seem to be a delight to people who find their dog’s panicked response funny. Thank heavens there are more options now.
I tested out what is often called the “bagel” collar or the “donut” collar when it came–the large size seemed appropriate (Skip is 45 lbs and with a very thick neck rough) and if I snugged it up tight it looked as though it was secure. However, it hasn’t gotten a great test, because Skip is one of those dogs, bless him, who has little interest in licking the incision.
[Comment added Jan 22nd: I strongly suggest that any one looking for direction on lick prevention to read the comments. They are fascinating. Here’s a quick summary: Most importantly, there is no one magic solution. Some dogs love the E collars and use them as tools. (!) Other’s can’t move in them. Every dog is different and you have to be sure what you are using is truly effective. There are lots of cautions about dogs getting out of the kind of collar you see below, so be absolutely positive that your dog can’t get it off or get around it before trusting it. Also, lots of good words about body suits, with cautions regarding ones that created moisture and caused injury at the incision site. Bottom line is to be hyper vigilant to be sure what you are doing is safe and truly work for your dog.]
Here’s how it is being used at the moment:
I should say though, that I stayed up with him all night Friday night and Jim and I have never left his side, except when taking the sheep to their new home. He has begun to lick a few times, but each time I gently prevented it by rubbing his head and redirecting his attention. Many people don’t have that option.
There are lots of other choices, however. The best site I found for checking them out was Chewy’s section on Dog Recovery Cones. For example, there are softer cones for both dogs and cats that are far less stressful than the earlier versions. I borrowed this photo from their website, because the whole image is just too damn cute for words:
Depending on where the injury is, there are also full body suits that eliminate the need for a cone altogether. I made one myself for one of my BCs years ago, when Pippy slashed her side and required stitiches. I used a small T shirt that I “vet wrapped” up around her and it worked great. But if need be, check out the body suits, and/or the coverings designed to prevent leg licking due to allergies. They can be life savers.
And don’t forget the anti-lick sprays that are readily found on line and in pet stores. The most well known is Bitter Apple, which I’ve found to be effective for a lot of my client’s dogs, and my own in the past. However, some dogs actually seemed to like it. I gave it an unfair test just a minute ago, by putting a small piece of sardine in a bowl and coating it with spray. Maggie sniffed, turned her head, sniffed again, and ate it up. In it’s defense, an itchy incision has nothing on a piece of stinky fish, at least not to Maggie. (Pardon my fingers, I needed to get the shot fast!) There are sprays of other “flavors” out there; anyone tried any?
By the way, I talked to two of my vets about how often they’ve encountered problematic licking after surgery. John Dally, who did Skip’s surgery, said that licking hasn’t been problematic with most of his clients. The clinic’s instructions advise us to watch the dogs carefully, because great harm can be caused in little time, but don’t send everyone home with a collar. They have them on hand for anyone who needs them. Carrie Donahue said she’s seen the most licking problems in young male dogs after neuter surgery. She suspects that the scrotum is especially sensitive–add on active, young male dogs and you can imagine the problem.
What about you? What’s been your experience? Lick prevention necessary? If so, what have you used that worked? Didn’t work? We’re all ears.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: First, Skip is doing pretty well. Too well now, predictably, because now all the meds have worn off and he’s ready to go. Yesterday I put him in his crate while I was outside with Maggie; when I went to let him out he was all flip-spinney and leapy and eyes-shiny because he was sure that it was his turn to work the sheep. Finally! he must have thought. He usually works at least 6 days a week, and it had been since Thursday, given that his surgery was Friday morning.
So now the game is to try to keep him quiet and not too miserable. We’ll work on tricks that don’t involve much movement, but, of course, that’s easier said than done. Luckily, his testicle was right under the skin, and the incision is tiny, no more than an inch long if not less than that. There’s a swelling around the knot used to tie off that I’m keeping an eye on, and a small, slit in the skin at its base. Luckily, he’s not licking it now, and hasn’t seemed inclined to do so much at all. Cross your paws that all goes well; as usual it’s day by day.
But, in other news: Yesterday was the end of an era at the farm. We took Lady Godiva, Lady Baa Baa and Meryl Sheep to a “good home in the country”. Happily, that’s not a euphemism, something told to the kids to lie about their beloved dog being euthanized. Nope, the girls literally got to retire from being the sheep of a competition sheepdog competitor, and I couldn’t be more grateful that a dear, young couple took them in.
Lady Godiva, one of my favorite ewes and closer to a pet than livestock, was beginning to have a hard time negotiating our steep hills, and getting moved around by not one, but now two working sheep dogs. At almost 13 years of age, she’s the one who needed to retire, but I sent two of her best friends with her. Below is Lady G on the right, looking skeptical, and Meryl Sheep on the left, mugging for the camera as usual. Meryl is also almost 13, and it seemed best to retire her too.
Lady Baa Baa, besides being a sheep with the best name ever (thank you readers!), is relatively young (7 yo), but is Lady G’s daughter. They are best buddies, and I thought it would be better to send her along too. They are now living in an idyllic setting, where they can graze and chew the hours away in peace. Thank you girls, I’ll miss you. I’m so curious who will take over as flock leader! I’m guessing Snow White or Beyonce, I’ll keep you posted.
Here’s Lady Baa Baa, happily eating the apples pieces I gave her right before the transfer.
Here they are in the handy trailer that Jim built for them, all ready to go.
And here’s some more color, from the bulb garden I ordered in fall from White Flower Farm. It was an extravagance for sure, but I am so grateful I was able to afford them. Wish I could send them to pretty much everyone who could use a lift right now.
It’s been a hard week–I hope you are doing okay. Here’s to better times for all of us. And dogs who recover from surgery smoothly and easily. We’d all love to hear how recovery has gone for your dog, or your client’s dogs. (And I’d love to hear from more veterinarians, please chime in!)
I kept a friend’s dog a few days after she had had emergency eye surgery–scratched a cornea running in the woods. She’s a golden retriever, and had a bagel-type collar about 1 1/2 inches thick, which was enough to keep her from scratching her face with a hind foot. I have an old “cone of shame” as backup, but never needed it.
My two current dogs are both spayed, and with both I put on the cone when I was at work when they were crated, and was able to supervise otherwise.
I did use the t-shirt-and-vet-wrap method for a previous dog who had a skin issue on her sternum that the vet was never able to diagnose. When it flared up I would put the t-shirt on to keep the lumps clean when she was out in the yard. It was very effective for that, but I doubt it would faze a determined licker, and might even make it worse from the retained moisture.
Glad Skip is doing well. Kate sends her sympathy, since she just started anticonvulsants, and the vet wanted me to limit her activity for the first few days while I monitored for side effects.
Kayla Fratt says
I love that the sheep get retirement too! It’s great that you think of their well-being too. Happy retirement to the ladies!
When I was growing up, my Shetland sheepdog got out of the yard and broke his rear leg. He had surgery to put it back together and wore the requisite cone of shame. One day while everyone was gone he somehow got the cone off and nearly chewed his leg off. This was way before the days of alternative collars so my brother took a cardboard box, cut holes in it for his legs and wrapped it around his body. The top of the box with the flaps surrounded his head. It worked but I don’t think it was comfortable altho it was good for a laugh at his expense.
Last year when my dog had knee surgery the vets at the hospital were adamant that I was not to use the donut collars. They had seen too many dogs able to get around them. It all depends on the dog I’m sure.
Hope Skip heals fast and happy retirement to the girls!
Funny story about the euphemism: when I was 6, our basset hound “went to live on a farm” after he bit me and one of my brothers and possibly some other children. I didn’t think much of it for several years, until that euphemism suddenly struck me as a young teenager. I then spent the next 25 years thinking that the basset had been euthanized, until one year at Christmas we started talking about previous dogs and my mother was absolutely horrified to learn that I thought the dog had been put down – turns out my dad worked with some people who loved bassets, owned a farm, and had no children, so the dog literally went to live on a farm.
Nothing really to share about recovery as my dogs have been fortunate enough to either avoid surgery or have it before coming to me.
We’ve had good luck with the donuts when we’ve needed them. When Finna had knee surgery I knew there was no way she’d put up with wearing the cone of shame so I brought the donut collar with her for staff to put on her when the surgery was done. Unfortunately, that information didn’t get to the right people so they put a cone on her. I arrived to pick her up and was told that she’d managed to get the cone off before she was even fully out of the anesthetic and that now she wouldn’t let them get close enough to put it back on. After I explained that I’d brought the donut collar and it was found and inflated I fastened it on and took her home. She figured out almost immediately that the donut made excellent bumpers and took to using it to bump things (including people and other pets) out of her way. In time she figured out how to get around it to lick at her stitches so we switched to a soft cone which she immediately defeated. But if we put the cone on behind the donut she couldn’t defeat them both so for several days we had a Finna Flower. https://www.flickr.com/photos/33350160@N02/11411987263/in/photolist-iorqe6-ioqSod-fMFVh1-fMFS8N-fMFCNw-fMpaNF-fMp7hc-fMFwKU-fMoZMT-fMpe3i-fMoQXR-fMoNfR-fMFgDj-fMFebE-fMFtvG-fMFkis-fMEZvA-fMEVxh-fMFawS-fMohjT-fMF5H3-fMo9wz-fMEF4N-fMEAAA-fMocf4-eg9BZA-eg3KNr-eg9w87-eg9r6y-eg3HwX-eg9up9-eg9v1q-dvDkUH-dvDmKv-dvDkb6-dvJX5q-dvK2kJ-dvK6FG-dvK4WE-dvDoVT-dvJYQL-dvDtAz-dvDv2V-dvK3gb-dvDxwM-cYpdNh-cYptMq-cYoXEU-cYpB6E-cYpfiW
Poppy had a mammary lump removed two years ago, and was spayed at the same time. I bought an inexpensive pack of baby bodysuits and made a few snips for her tail and to enable her to pee and poo while wearing them. They worked very well, although she was rarely out of my sight and showed no propensity for licking. Slipping her in and fastening the snaps as she lay back trustfully in my arms triggered huge bursts of emotion though – she is very much the size and weight of a baby and I struggled not to over anthropomorphise.
Fortunately Poppy has always been comfortable with clothing, cheerfully accepting a jumper on cold walks and now more than happy to wear one even in the house to supplement her fur, which is very thin after a year on steroids. Sophy hates clothes, and has always refused to consider even a coat. Her view is that if the weather is too foul for fur it is too foul to go out at all!
We too had a dog who went to a farm in the country when I was very small. And decades later I wondered if it was a euphemism, but my mother assured me not. She had found a rescue to rehome the dog, who was much loved but beyond my mother’s ability to exercise or even feed properly at the time.
Georgie actually had to be spayed twice. The first time by her rescue group was probably a bit too soon after weaning pups, so she was likely still a little…“messy” inside, so to speak, and I think perhaps a bit rushed by an overworked rescue vet…anyway, point is, a bit of ovary got left behind, reimplanted, and a year or so later she started showing signs of being in heat and lactating! It’s called remnant ovarian syndrome. So she had a second spay (by our own vet; most beautiful incision I’ve ever seen in my life, still in awe of Dr. Dave’s skills!). I don’t remember ever having to use anything on her. And that is one big long incision. Fortunately I work from home and could keep an eye, and maybe a couple times has to redirect her from licking? But it definitely wasn’t an issue. We had one of those foam cones from our previous dog, Coppi, who unfortunately had multiple surgeries for various things big and small. I also don’t remember licking being an issue with her. The cone was super handy, though, when she had any pain issues but had to be handled—she was a fear biter. The foam cone was much easier to put on and waaaaay less stressful for her then a muzzle.
Regina R. Allen DVM says
With 6 yrs of Private Practice experience, I agree that it’s mostly the young males that lick after neuter surgery. Females of all ages seem to rarely lick spay incisions. However, any male can cause swelling and thus discomfort around the incision by being too active, too soon after surgery. Clients seemed to understand that it was important to restrict bitches to leash walks only and no wild play for 2-3 weeks (preferably longer, but we were lucky to get people to do 2 weeks) probably because it is an abdominal surgery. But they rarely restricted males in the same manner, which lead to complications and sometimes a second surgery to do a scrotal ablation due to severe swelling or infection.
Unchecked licking can do a huge amount of damage in a short amount of time. I’ve had zero success with the inflatable donut collars, usually because most dogs are flexible enough to get around the restriction, but also because the seem relatively easy to get off. I had a bitch who needed multiple minor surgeries to remove small mammary masses (think 1-2 sutures per site) who would not leave the incisions alone to heal. The donut provided absolutely no obstacle to her, and she would just pull those sutures right out! We tried a t-shirt, but she could chew through anything. Finally went with a traditional cone collar, and while she was unhappy, I found if I could get her thru the first few days of healing (and the itchiest period), she would then leave things alone enough to heal. So what I’m trying to say is that even though the traditional cone collars cause stress, they can be needed when you have a persistent licker. While I’m certainly open to trying other methods, ultimately the patient’s long-term health is more important than the temporary stress of wearing a cone.
Lisa Laughon says
Our Cairn terrier has had surgery for liver cancer twice and we discovered that the surgical suits were a Godsend. Super comfortable for him! I highly recommend them.
My 8-month Havanese was neutered last week but because one of his testicles was undescended the surgery was actually pretty invasive—it ended up that it was hidden up behind his kidney and the incision that was needed to get to it is pretty substantial—about 3.5 inches, and his torso is only about 11 inches long to begin with! He was sent home with a cone and after a few days of misery for all of us I got him a donut collar. I was sure he would be able to get around it, but in fact it is exactly the right size to keep him from getting to the incision. It seems to make a huge mental/emotional difference for him, which is great (not to mention sparing my shins!).
I have put the cone back on him a couple times because he is far more convinced that he is healed than I am, and the cone seems to keep his energy levels down, probably because it is depressing (or whatever the non-anthropomorphized version of that is) for him to wear it. So we work with him while he’s in the donut to get his brain tired out, but when he just can’t resist breaking out into the zoomies he wears his cone for a bit to calm him down. I feel a bit like a monster for doing things that way but I’d rather have him be temporarily upset about the cone than risk having the incision rip open! Only 5 more days….
Jolly, of blessed memory, was good as gold after his neuter and knee surgeries, but the sternum-to-prepuce incision after he went into torsion (bloat with twist) was more than he could bear. I used t-shirts and vigilance to get us through the weeks of healing. He was a rottie, so chesty that I needed to buy XXLs, seconds from a nearby outlet, gather the excess fabric up on his back, and rubber band it there, giving him a foofy pony tail two-thirds of the way down his spine. It worked.
My skinny husband still wears our favorite of the XXLs when he’s painting: a bright red shirt with a raised fist and the words “Green Power!”
Cathy Withall says
We haven’t used a cone in years – probably not for around 8/9 years now, and never for any length of time on our current dogs. The last dog who had to wear one after surgery to remove mammary tumors woke us in the night. We went downstairs to find she’d tipped over three dining chairs and was stuck under the forth!
Spays and two cruciate surgeries have since been managed with body suits and supervision. For post-spay lickers I’ve used a large sanitary towel stuck to the inside of the suit over the wound area. They can still lick, but the dampness doesn’t reach the wound.
Nancy P Carpenter says
I recently had a need for a lick-preventer and went back to company called Suitical. They make several types of body suits to protect different areas of the dog’s body. I used their legging wrap with a dog to protect a leg incision (and have used it seveal times since then to prevent licking at leg areas that were shaved for IVs.). I also have a body suit that looks and behaves just like a onesie for dogs. The back end unsnaps and rolls right back up over the body to the shoulder area, leaving the dog’s genital area free for elimination. It’s been a complete success for my dog. The only caveat is trying to get the right size!
I tried both the hard plastic cone and another softer version, but he had those off within seconds, so I went back to the Suiticals.
Julie H. says
Years ago when we spayed my older border collie I put the cone on her. She’s always hated anything but a collar on her body, so when I put the cone on she dropped her head so the cone was resting on the floor and stood there frozen. I felt terrible but had to leave right away for 3 hours so I left her in a room with my husband who was glued to his computer. When I got home she was right where I’d left her with the cone was still resting on the floor. I asked my husband if she had moved. Nope. Took it right off and luckily she never licked her incision!
Planning to spay my 4 year old at some point. Wondering if just using her “season panties” would work. She has no problem with those.
My dogs have always cone-of-shamed, and every one of them seemed to enjoy it. They were always part of a pack, and quickly learned to corral toys with the cone. Of course, they were young adults because I usually acquired them at six months-ish, the time when people tend to get frustrated as the puppy becomes an adolescent, so they were young enough to be flexible and old enough to not panic. And, they were Rottweilers, a breed that lives to hoard loved things, so the chance to gather five tennis balls in one place and keep them was a great treat.
BARB STANEK says
Oh please keep us posted on how the Ladies of Leisure are doing in their new digs. I feel like they’ve left my place too! I will miss them. Enjoy your retirement, girls!
Brenda Christiansen says
My Derek, a Corgi, is due for surgery for bilateral cryptorchid next month. They are pretty deep inside but hopefully not too dramatic of a surgery.
I don’t want to use a plastic cone. But my experience with the type your dog uses as a pillow is that it doesn’t restrict enough. Especially with a long dog.
I am not sure how long he will need to wear one – if he needs one at all – but I can locate a soft cone on Chewy that I looked up online from your suggestion. Thanks
He, unfortunately, is head shy so getting it on him will be a trial in itself. Maybe a onesy is the way to go for him. I’ll look around.
Barbara J Martin says
Casey, my 95 pound German Shepherd Dog, came with undescended testicles. After doing lots of research I reluctantly decided on surgery when he was three years old. I took him to Washington State University’s veterinary teaching hospital because one of the vets there teaches laproscopic surgery. Yes it is much more expensive than the more invasive regular surgery but I was so glad I chose that way. They offered to do a gastropexy at the same time for no extra charge. I bought him a T-shirt (Tulane’s Closet) and put it on him for the eight hour drive home the morning after his surgery. I got him out for a potty stop halfway home but he wouldn’t go. About an hour from home he started crying. I stopped at a pet store and bought an inflatable collar. He still wouldn’t potty, I struggled to get the collar on him, he was still crying and so was I. I hugged him and sobbed, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” Turns out we were both hungry. After feeding him and grabbing something at the drive-through we made it home safely. I didn’t use the collar. He is such a big boy and kept running into things. The pj’s did a great job. He had three tiny incisions, the largest less than one inch long. He never licked or tried to get through the pj’s and everything healed up very quickly. I followed the rules about limited exercise. Years ago a vet put a cone on one of my other GSDs but for that size dog the cones are so big they have trouble getting through doorways. I’m glad Casey was such a good patient. So happy your sheep got to go to a good retirement home.
Margaret, good luck to Kate with her new meds!
Thanks HFR for the cautions about donut collars. So far it seems that they do well with some dogs, others get them off in a flash. Definitely need to be tested before their actual use I’d argue.
Katy, that is one funny story about your dog going to that good home in the country. So glad it was actually true!
Leave it to Finna, Kat, to need both a donut and a cone! And I find it hysterical that she began using the donut collar as a bumper? I can see the article in Animal Behavior: “Tool use in a Domestic Dog.”
Frances: “Poppy in a baby body suit”: Best image of the day.
Hilary Burns says
I have had success with my Cairn using her thundershirt – it has not covered the wounds, but seems to relieve her previously obsessive need to lick. This is, of couse, with close management.
Nina that’s fascinating about a cone being used rather than a muzzle. Never would have thought of that.
Dr. Regina: Thanks so much for checking in. Interesting that your experience parallels that of Dr. Carrie re males licking after neutering and females not, or less so, after spaying. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised about sensitive scrotums. (A male friend of mine emailed me after reading the post and alluded to that being an all-species issue.) Also, thanks for your experience with inflatable donut collars; another piece of input for us all to keep in mind. And I couldn’t agree more than a Elizabethan collar is well worth keeping a dog safe.
Good to know Lisa, thank you!
Ashley, so now we have another use for cone collars! (One reader used it rather than a muzzle during handling at the vet’s.) Good way to slow a dog down, often the hardest part of healing, right? (That’s where Skip and I are right now. Me: Keep it slow Mr. Skip, slow down. Gooooooood boy.” Skip: Wheeeeee!!! Wanna see how fast I can move while still on a leash?”)
Lane: You gotta love all the uses for T-shirts, hey?
Cathy: Brilliant use of a sanitary towel to absorb moisture. As a species, we can be idiots, but we certainly are creative!
Thanks Nancy P, another reader who had great luck with body suits. Good to know for sure.
Julie H: OMG, your poor BC! One of mine had the same reaction (tho not left for 4 hours!), which is why I’ve moved heaven and earth to avoid them. Regarding the “season panties”–I’d think they would work great IF they didn’t rub against the incision… depends on where the edge of the panties lie, yes? If she’s not a licker you could even try just a T-shirt. For my dog I just pulled up the extra at the bottom edge and made a pony tail of it with rubber band on the top of her back. Worked great (as the same did for another reader…)
Sally: How cool is this? You are the second person to write that your dog turned the cone into a tool. Seriously, someone should write an article!
Wren Ingram says
Oh boy, after WAY too many knee surgeries with my rescued Mastiffs I’ve had lots of experience and troubles with the cone of shame! My latest rescue (at 190 lbs as a 2 year old) blew his knee/tibia while walking around in our small yard and had 8 screws and a titanium plate (TPLO) surgery. I was only getting started socializing and working with him when this happened so I went with the ‘donut’ and it worked great even though he did remove it a few times and scratched a hole in the collar…but that’s what duct tape is for!
He also is one of the dogs that LIKES bitter apple so that didn’t work BUT I recommend HERBAN ESSENTIALS Lavender Pet towelettes. Seriously. Every time he started whining or trying to lick/nibble the staples I opened the pack and started wiping the towelette everywhere and he would close his eyes, breath deeply and go back to sleep. Yes it’s true and as an avid herb gardener I know the rewards of lavender aromatherapy 🙂 OH yeah, even with the hardware he somehow tore the ACL and then all the hardware out to be removed so 2X the fun. He is a VERY special rescue boy…
Barb: The Ladies of Leisure (that will be their new name!) thank you! I’ll keep you posted; I’ll be visiting them soon to say hi.
Marjorie Sovec says
Seems my Dobies always lick — usually excessively. So I train them on a variety of e-collars. my girl had a rear paw injury. Even with the largest clear plastic e-collar she could bring that foot forward and into the cone just far enough for her to lick! Or she would stand, push cone onto floor while bringing rear paw forward to lick. Needless to say I had it as tight as I felt comfortable having it but that sleek, slippery coat still allows a little movement.
Brenda, based on comments so far, I’d check into the body suit idea (or even a T-shirt). If you do use a donut collar, after being sure it will work, you can condition him to it by giving him treats with it in between his mouth and your hand (start by putting your hand through) and then, over several session, giving him treats for moving his head farther into the cone itself and eventually through. Good luck and keep us posted.
Barbara J: I can cry too when I’m too hungry. Please send a Big Mac. And fries. Did I mention the fries?
I used a body suit for the first time recently and was thrilled. Max is a pretty determined licker when something is annoying him so I was concerned that he wouldn’t respect the suit. After the first 30 min or so of being horrified and sure that he couldn’t move he relaxed into it. Wish I could figure out how to send pictures
Monica Roberts says
I volunteer at my local Humane Society and so I see a lot of dogs post spay and neuter surgery. In the two years, I only remember one dog, a Treeing Walker Coonhound who developed a very sore belly after spay surgery and licked excessively so had to have a cone. Normally, they are just kept quiet for about 5 days. We had one other dog who licked his legs and developed sores in, what we assume was response to kennel stress. He always had a cone when he was alone in his kennel. He was a sweatheart about putting it on when we conditioned him to it with high value treats.
Our boy Ford came to us from rescue needing 2 immediate, nearly back-to-back knee surgeries. Somehow in his 4 years no one before us (including the rescue) decided a 50-lb dog’s luxating patellas should get fixed. Our vet supplied us with a large soft cone, but the downside was that it’s opaque – SO MUCH of his vision was obscured, during a time he was still deciding if we were trustworthy or not. I went and found a clear plastic clunker that wound up being too cumbersome, and a bagel/donut collar that, in order to prevent him from reaching a knee, was so large it got caught on things and was almost as oppressive as the solid soft collar. We reached a compromise where he only had to wear the soft cone while I was unconscious and couldn’t monitor him, and I used a binder clip to make it one panel narrower, so it wouldn’t collapse when he put his head down. Due to the cone being blue, he will always be known as the “Sad Petunia” when he must wear it, though hopefully he is done with surgeries for a long time.
I’ve used softer fabric cones with success, but have had dogs get out of or around inflatable donuts and won’t risk it again. With small dogs and abdominal incisions, though, I’ve had good success with baby onesies- I wouldn’t 100% rely on it for long unsupervised stretches but they’re great for making it harder to get at the incision when nearby but only semi-supervised, so I’ll have more time to notice & interrupt, like at night with a dog sleeping right next to me, or dog is nearby while I work from home.
As the saying goes it’s all fun and games until you have to wear a cone. For me it’s a risk vs benefit. If the dog did get around a soft cone how bad would the damage be? I knew when my dog needed IV fluids for a GI infection I wasn’t going to risk the catheter placement with a soft cone. Full story he removed his own catheter as soon as the cone came off. I do think it’s important to pre purchase a cone or two many vets only have hard plastic or worse yet the wrong size.
Elizabeth P. says
In my experience it depends on the dog! Our most recent dogs have been Daisy, a doodle (Standard poodle size) and Rosa, a very short-legged Bull Mastiff. Daisy is extremely flexible and unless an injury was pretty close to her neck the donut wouldn’t work. Fortunately she’s okay (if not thrilled) with a regular cone. Rosa couldn’t reach her hind end normally, so when she was spayed I just put a t-shirt on her backwards and tied it on her back, as protection. When she had each of her TPLO surgeries the donut worked just fine, in fact she seemed to enjoy it as a pillow! I think we had to use a cone on her once, when she cut open her paw trying to go through the front window after a strange cat, because she could reach her front paw even with the donut. She was a very accident-prone dog – we lost her at 6 1/2 in June to a her iated disc and still miss her dreadfully.
Cheryl Nelson says
Greyhound owner here. I’ve always had great luck using a basket muzzle with a poop cup. Of course greyhounds are used to muzzles, but it is another option. It’s nice for the dog to not have something around their neck.
Carolyn Turner says
I have volunteered with an all breed rescue for over 20 years. We have a physical shelter. I’ve cared for a lot of rescue post surgical dogs, plus my personal dogs and a cat. Initially, the rescue people just observe the animal, but if they show a tendency to lick, they put a hard cone on. Most dogs adapt well and learn to eat, drink, and maneuver wearing the cone. With some of the animals, the pre-surgery shaving seems to cause more itching than the actual surgery, as they will lick the whole abdomenal area, rather than just the incision.
With some who are persistent lickers, we have put a pair of boys boxer shorts on the dog. It works, but presents an interesting picture.
@Brenda Christianson. My dog Nina has always disliked putting on her harness. She’s not head shy; she just Did. Not. Like. It. I had tried luring her head through with food, helped a bit, but a) she’s not that food-motivated, and b) there was usually another dog around trying to muscle in and grab the food.
I had one of those, “Call yourself a dog trainer??” moments, and realized that butt scratches are up there with tennis balls, and way ahead of food. I held the harness in front of her, put my hand just above her tail, and held the harness in front of her face. At the slightest move towards the harness, scratch, scratch.
I was able to raise criteria so quickly that she was shoving her head in in just a couple of days. Her cue is me presenting the harness and putting my hand on her back.
Thanks, Trisha, for your good wishes. Kate’s seizures increased from 4 in a 24 hour period once a year to 10 in 21 hours last week, only 3 weeks from the last cluster, and 4 weeks from the cluster before that. Not sustainable.
We had zero luck with the donut collar. With our Oliver, it didn’t keep him from worrying at things on his hind legs – but what it did do was make it hard for him to lie down/stretch out properly. The plastic collars – especially the more transparent ones – were awkward at first, but once he figured out how to navigate he was fine. We took it off to let him eat and drink.
I suspect the stress most dogs display when wearing them has more to do with their humans not acclimating them to the cones before treatment – a mistake I make myself – so they first experience it coming out of surgery or in the middle of an uncomfortable condition.
I use a BiteNot collar when our dogs need surgery. Works perfectly, keeps them from getting around to an incision, although doesn’t prevent scratching at their face or eyes. This even worked for our golden who blew a vein in her front leg during chemo treatment. We tried everything to keep her away from that front leg, thinking that the BiteNot wouldn’t be enough. We ended up with that in desperation and it worked. Here’s a link (delete if not allowed): https://www.statelinetack.com/item/bitenot-pet-collar/220104%20CSM/
Or the newly retired flock could be “Ladies Who Lunch.”
Our old, sly, and crafty Shepherd mix, Grace, had to have the cone of shame on for four weeks after an initial botched and then salvaged ear hematoma surgery. Keeping the ear depended on keeping it clean and sutured for a month! She spent the entire time figuring out ways to show us how much she hated the cone and how mad she was! This was a dog who could squeeze through tight spaces and silently pop up in front of you when you thought she was behind you. She was sleek and spry, and her relentless banging the cone on the ground on walks, and ramming it into corners and furniture, and dragging her food dish around inside the cone sure seemed like she was making as much of a racket as possible to ensure we knew how unjust this situation was. She’d whip her cone around hoping someone was close by and she could make contact. It was a long four weeks, but her ear was saved, albeit in a permanent Maggie-like crook.
After that, we tried like hell to avoid the cone at all costs and have been successful so far. The t-shirt wrap and constant surveillance worked well for Phoebe. Paws crossed Olive never needs it. I can’t even imagine.
We had a beagle who tipped a 3 corner piece out of her ear. Vet trimmed and stitched the ear and sent her home with the ear bandaged tightly to her head along with a cone of shame. After 2 days at home with the dig, I went for a 30 minute walk. Came home to find the dog upstairs, gums and tongue purple, eyes rolling back in her head, gasping for air. Cameras showed she had tried to go up the steps, hit the cone on the step, causing swelling to her trachea. With the bandaging and cone, there was no place for swelling to go. I grabbed scissors and cut bandaging and cone off. She gasped for air. Had I been 5 minutes later coming home, I would have had a dead dog. No more cones in my house. We used cut up pool noodle strung on a rope for our latest dogs surgery to retrieve a chunk of ball she had swallowed.
Lisa R says
Look into the ‘BiteNot’ collars. uses the hard cone material, padding inside, and wraps around the neck and fastens with velcro so they can’t bend their neck to get at the spot they want to lick. There is an attached flat strap the goes from the back of their neck, behind their armpits – across their chest and back to the collar to prevent them from being able to kick the collar off. The hard part is getting the right width of the collar – has to go from behind ear area to base of neck.
My big guy was also that satellite dish hazard with a cone – the doughnut popped off with a single kick – altho you can use a length of gauze to tie it to their collar. This neck wrap has saved our shins and the doorways and the cats from being scooped up during 3 knee surgeries (don’t ask).
Pat Blocker says
Just about an hour before your blog popped up in my newsfeed, I’d ordered an inflatable collar for my GSD pup to wear after her spay. Glad to have my choice confirmed. Thanks.
Bitsey Patton says
You can modify the stiff cones to make them more manageable for the dog. All you need is a pair of scissors and lots of duct tape. Most cones are way too wide, and the dog can’t get through a doorway without getting stuck. So make “darts” to narrow the cone (asked a sewer what a dart is). Also, most cones are way too long. Trim them just so they barely extend beyond the nose. I have photos if anyone is interested. Most recently I discovered body suits and really like them, too.
Lis Bennett says
What a great post and thread: timely and useful as well as entertaining. Asterix my border collie has been doing his own research, as thanks to a careless builder he suffered a deep laceration to one of his rear pads. He took strong exception to the girly pink vet wrap of the first dressing and removed the whole thing before we got home.
Sadly the problem was more than one of aesthetics and we rapidly progressed through the doughnut ( possibly not a fair test of the product as it had never really recovered from the time my small poodle cross used it as a trampoline whilst being worn by my lurcher), the soft collar, which being black and opaque freaked him out until he discovered how easily it bent and came off, to the traditional party hat.
The cone worked for a couple of days until repeated use as a battering ram broke enough of the rigid ties to enable him to snake his neck out beyond it. None of the sprays from the unpalatable to the virulently antiseptic deterred him. In the end I resorted to combining the cone with a Baskerville muzzle, but he still managed to lick the dressing soggy. Nights were the worst as every time I dropped off, my 6th sense would hear the interminable licking stealthily recommence and I would wake with a start.
He is at last dressing free but we lost a lot of healing time, so if anyone has a foolproof way to protect a neurotic collie from attempting self amputation, I should be very glad to hear it.
Nannette Morgan says
I’m happy for your “girls” who are certainly very beautiful. I’m sure you will miss them. For acclimating my dogs to the plastic “cone” I desensitize them by feeding treats when it’s out and then gradually encourage them to put their head through to get treats but only slowly over time do I actually close the plastic snaps. My current dog readily and eagerly puts his head in for me when I say “let’s put your party hat on!” (yes, I named it, trainer that I am lol). I’ve also used the BiteNot collar for areas like on the back or flank. It doesn’t work for protecting areas close to the mouth like front/back paws/legs.
Cathy Balliu says
My corgi wore a donut 24/7 for most of the time on the farm. It was mostly to keep her from going through the fence in search of food. She also is an itchy bitch and it kept down the licking/picking. She adjusted to wearing it with no problem. It was better than tying an empty gallon jug to her collar and letting her drag that around. I was forever having to find where she had stranded herself, wrapped around debris.
Sue Vicente says
When my Std Poodle was attacked and bitten on her hindquarters, the wounds were left open to drain as they healed. I went to a local “used stuff store”, bought a couple pairs of poodle-size children’s lightweight shorts, secured them on her with vet wrap, and washed/changed them everyday. Worked nicely.
With my Pekes (eyes, eyes, eyes) I had to use The stiff Elizabethan collars, but cut across the curve of one side and secured the collar so that side was down so there was effectively one shorter side. Otherwise they couldn’t even walk without jamming the lower edge of the E collar into the ground.
When Hobbes the Vizsla was neutered at 2yrs he had no issue with licking and we did not use a cone or donut at all. When he had his first mast cell surgery he was more interested in licking and I had purchased both a soft cone and the same blue inflatable donut as in your picture. He easily got around and slipped out of the soft cone but did not even try with the donut. He seemed to love having it support his head to sleep on. I am sure he could have slipped it off if he was motivated to. We have used it now for multiple surgery recoveries without issue.
I have an incessant licker even without surgery. When he was neutered I only knew about the cone, but several smaller surgeries and a crutiate TPLO later, I have tried all types I could find. I thought I d be clever and get him used to a body suit before the crutiate surgery but when I put it on he would not move. He would just lie there, I could stand him up and he would stand there frozen, refusing to move! I do think the suit would not have been the best option since it would probably rub on the incision. I ended up using a combination of neckwear depending on my level of concentration. If I was near but doing a task a soft cone or donut would slow him down enough for me to intercept and prevent any damage, a hard cone was absolutely necessary at night when I was sleeping. I hated that, but was the only was to keep him from getting to the incision. Many hours spent sitting on the floor next to his crate, door open, talking, reassuring and rubbing him so he could be coneless.
Hope Skip gets along well and can be out there working again soon. I’m sure the retired ladies will enjoy leisurely life on the farm
Rachel Jackson says
My border collie worries at her stitches – her spay stitches and those on her front foot after she cut it on oyster shells.
She was determined and we used a cone. BUT she hated it. Then we cut out 3 rows of circular holes close to her head and suddenly she was better with it. So is it the noise funneling effect that is so awful? Their hearing is so vital to their sense of well being. As well as the obvious sight and just the feel of the thing.
Those are very, very lucky sheep- 13 is pretty ancient for a ewe, isn’t it?
One of my dogs cleverly used the edge of the plastic cone to dig at his surgery incision (also a retained testicle, way up by his kidney!). We had to get a bigger cone. The flexible ones just wouldn’t work- as soon as your eyes weren’t on him, he was on whatever incision, wound, or problem spot. Ugh. The blow-up donut was a better option for our blind, hearing-impaired border collie, as the hard plastic seemed to interfere with his navigation, but he got around it when we weren’t watching and damaged the surgery site following a tumor removal. We’re hoping he’ll never, ever need surgery again! However, my first dog could be trusted with a single re-direct and soft no. Wow. Unfortunately she was my first dog. She’s spoiled me forever…
Some of these comments are so funny! I love the dogs getting creative with their cones. The only time any of my dogs had to wear a cone was the last week of Marlin’s life. The tumor on his larynx was growing, and it was starting to expand out on the side of his neck. He kept scratching it and causing it to drain fluid. My vet gave me a cone, and I wish I’d known about other collars or methods of scratch/lick prevention at that time, but I didn’t. He was miserable with the cone on, and it was pretty much one of the final deciding factors in putting him to sleep. I’m happy I know about other collars/t.shirts now. Also, as a little update, I received my acceptance letter from The Guide Dog Foundation over the weekend. I’ll let you know how everything goes as the months go by.
Cat Warren says
Rev has that exact royal blue donut, and although it doesn’t look substantial, it’s held up wonderfully and didn’t feel like a “cone of shame” punishment for him. It worked beautifully for him; not 100 percent effective at keeping him from licking, but it helped. And he loved it and used it as a pillow when it was on him! So glad Skip sailed through surgery.
After surgery to remove a potentially bad tumor on my pitbull’s rear leg, we first used a comfy cone. All was fine for a few days. But then I had to leave for several hours, and he managed to reach the incision and open it up.
After another surgery to repair that damage, I combined the comfy cone, a pair of old children’s pajama bottoms with a hole for his tail, and a week of working from home so I could keep an eye on him the whole time. I also put a bell on his collar so I could hear him at night if he tried to reach his leg.
My dogs prefer wearing their muzzle to a cone of any type. My dogs are not bite risks but I train them all should they be in an emergency evacuation situation of injured badly enough to not be able to make good choices. When my boy had paw surgery, nothing we could do was able to keep him from chewing off his bandages. Total nightmare. Then I realized we could put him in his muzzle and it would effectively prevent licking and chewing of bandages. Used it from one of my girls who would chew off her carpal brace the second I had my back turned and she needed to wear it for a badly sprained ankle. Appropriate positive training makes wearing a muzzle and easy thing they are used to and takes out any added stress. It has definitely saved my sanity during a few recoveries!
Vet tech of 12 years here… the short answer is: There is no universal answer! It depends on the dog, and where the surgery site is. In the case of a highly determined dog, they will get anything you put on them off or find a way around or through it. This is when we sometimes have to resort to “chemical restraint”/mild sedatives, and/or more effective pain management. Some dogs need only a mild deterrent, such as a t-shirt, donut collar, or bite-not collar). Then there are those such as Skip that leave it alone. Best wishes for a speedy and smooth recovery Skip! =-)
I have an 11 month old Westie who was born with a beautiful coat. My previous Westies didn’t get their “Westie Cut,” complete with a skirt, until they were close to a year of age (yes, Westies have skirts made of fur!) But my current little girl got her Westie cut at 4 months, thanks to her thick, beautiful coat. She was spayed at 6 months, and we first tried the donut collar. It was a wee bit too big for her, and although she didn’t lick, she was obviously miserable. So I ordered a bodysuit. It was made with the same fabric used in swimsuits. It worked beautifully…until I took it off to check her incision. I discovered that her entire “skirt” was matted under the bodysuit. Due to Covid, I wasn’t able to just hop over to the groomer. So I sat on the ground with a pair of scissors, snipping off her entire skirt. She woke up that morning with a Westie Cut and ended up with a Puppy Cut! I was able to find a body suit (on Amazon) made of lightweight fabric that was roomier than the “swimsuit.” No more matting…and the best part about this suit was the strip of Velcro on the back that allowed the fabric near the snaps to be rolled over and attached to the Velcro on the back for outside potty trips. Fast-forward to today…she still has the Puppy Cut. It’s so much easier to maintain!
A basket muzzle with a stool guard, or even some of the holes covered over with duct tape, is an effective anti-licking/chewing device. Greyhound folks are very familiar with this set up, but the muzzles come in all sizes.
This reminds me of a tweet by Blair Braverman. Her dog Flame had to wear a cone and was miserable – until Blair put a bow on it. As soon as it was clear that the cone was fashion and not some kind of medical device, Flame positively beamed. Photographic evidence: https://twitter.com/blairbraverman/status/1309555845508796416?lang=eng
I’m not sure if that approach would work on any other dog, though.
My parents’ elderly Collie, Connie, had to have a surgery on her vulva due to frequent vaginal infections. (Sorry, I forgot the name of the surgery, but it isn’t truly important.) Anyway, she completely shut down if forced to wear the cone the vet sent home with her. After some research, I found a way to make a “cone” by wrapping a folded towel around her neck, then securing it with vet wrap. She looked like a giraffe, but it kept her from licking the surgical site. She went on to make a full recovery, and died last year at the age of 13. RIP, sweet sister.
Jenny Haskins says
I’d never had any need for lick-prevention collars, until Ironbark (tall 10 year old German Shepherd) had a couple of growths removed from the base of his tail. The vet sent him home with a cone which was unwieldy , and wasn’t really big enough to prevent him licking the stitches.
I went out and bought a blow-up collar and it worked beautifully
Anu Roots says
The small fabric post-op cone I had for my Papillon boy, Remy, frightened him so I had to think of another way to keep my little fraidy-cat from licking at his surgical site.
My solution was to use one of his belly bands around his neck. As is, it was too loose, so I made it fit better by using a maxi pad on it. The belly band was then snug enough to keep Remy from bending his neck to lick his stitches but soft and flexible enough to allow him to look around and sleep comfortably. Worked perfectly!
Leslie Sachlis says
All of my love and good wishes for Skip’s quick recovery both for your human and animal families. It is so hard to watch our pups suffer, even when we believe this was what was best for them.
Did the “Elizabethan Collar” (that was what my vet called it) work for my dogs? Sometimes. Jaker was a tumor mill. One of his first at the age of five was a Mast Cell – Stage 2. It was successfully removed, he then took high to low dose prednisone which was exhausting for all of us. He was going out to urinate every two hours during first week on the high dose. The prednisone therapy did work – no more Mast Cell classified tumors. But after that we checked all new lumps. Anything abnormal meant another surgery. That was thirty years ago. After surgery he would wear the collar until the urgency to tear out stitches seemed to ebb. Then we would transition to Benadryl (at a dosage prescribed by his vet) until the incisions healed and he lost interest in the area disturbed by surgery. He was also an allergy dog (seasonal allergies). We used Benadryl for mild to moderate allergy symptoms after his Allergist informed us of the side effects of the prescription drugs available at that time. If he became frenetic about his allergies, he wore the cone. He could eat, drink, sniff the ground, and jog while wearing the cone. It seemed to calm him down. With most of our other dogs the sequence was surgery, cone, Benadryl, and then back to normal. I do not know when “cone of shame” became a thing. One of our dogs would have called it a “cone of rage”. Within two hours of returning home after surgery, we had an eighty pound battering ram on our hands. She was not attacking us. We were not listening. We did not remove the cone, so she was going to remove it one way or the other. That included ramming us with it. She was frantic. I called the vet. She prescribed a dose of Benadryl to match Maggie’s weight. Peace reigned again in our home. Maggie was transformed back into the Maggie we knew and loved.
My dog had a cyst removed from his thigh. After the stitches were out, he started licking the 2-inch incision and it started opening up. After bitter sprays and soothing ointments failed, out of desperation I stuck a bandaid over it. I figured he’d have it chewed off in about a minute, but it was like magic. He never even looked at his leg after that. In a few days I took the bandaid off and it was healing beautifully, and he never licked it again.
Melanie Hawkes says
In 2018 Upton had emergency surgery for an intestinal obstruction. He had a scar the length of his abdomen and was very unwell. The emergency hospital gave him a soft collar to wear. I put an old tshirt on him and only used the collar when I wasn’t able to supervise. But he was so good and hardly touched it.
In November he had a lump surgically removed on his hip. My vet gave us a hard collar, but I tried the soft collar (he looked like a blue frilled-neck lizard) with the tshirt. I went to the shop for 30 minutes and he’d managed to get it off and lick the scar red raw! We went back to the hard collar. When I was home to supervise he could have it off and if he tried to lick it I could easily redirect him. It took him a few days to get used to it (we didn’t sleep the first night as he couldn’t seem to work out how to lie down) but worked out how to do all his tasks even while wearing it.
The hard collar was on a martingale collar, which made it easy for me to get it on and off (I’m in a wheelchair), and I managed to teach him to put it on himself! I had it sitting on the floor, and dropped a treat in it, and he’d stick his head in the hole to get the treat, and it would go on automatically!
Let’s hope he won’t need any more surgeries, but I love the sound of some of these suggestions.
Didn’t have much of a problem with past dogs, two Goldens and two Havanese. Either used a soft collar or a T-shirt or onesie worked. Now we adopted another Havanese, 4yo, and I have made note of all these different ideas should we need them in the future. Such a creative bunch! Thank you!
Susanne Shearing says
I work as an RVT at a Veterinary Teaching College in the Small Animal Surgery Service. And I am owned by a 13 month old Border Collie. On a daily basis I have to talk to owners about preventing their pets from licking/chewing at incisions and the need for e(lizabethan) collars. I feel like a fraud as I chastise them for not putting a cone on their pet. I know that it only takes mere seconds/minutes for a dog/cat to lick/take out sutures/cause infection/cause dehiscence. I will need to get my own BC neutered in a few months and I am absolutely dreading the recovery period. Which is one of the reasons that I have been putting it off. He does not know how to take it easy and he will take out everyone and everything in his path with a hard plastic e collar. The inflatable Kong collars look comfy but most dogs can get around them and still lick what they shouldn’t. The foam e collars also look like a good idea…and they do work for a lot of pets…more comfy than plastic…and saves walls and legs from injury. But the pet may still be able to bend it to get to the desired licking area. When our BC Peat gets neutered, I’m hoping to outfit him with a onesie to prevent licking. Not without it’s cons. We will have to unsnap the bottom bit everyone times he needs to go to the bathroom…and as a BC in the Winter time, he loves to be outside so this will be constant. This will all be good educational material for me for my job…but still not looking forward to it.
My 2 year old male just was neutered and did the full take of both testicles and sack. So his is a long line with sutures. It’s been almost three days now since it was done. I decided on the inflatable cone Bencmate because it looks more comfortable for the dog. But since having it on him I soon realized he could in fact reach his incision sight and can lick it. So I may have to get an actual cone for my boy just for the time he’s crated due to me having to step out of the house to make sure he can’t do damage while unsupervised. But other then the crate he can wear his blow up one while I’m home and can easily redirect him. He’s an unhappy boy but everyday is feeling better and better and back to his old self.