The Hidden Costs of Elizabethan Collars in Pet Care A summary of: 

By Cherice Roth, MS, DVM, KeraVet Bio Lead Medical Advisor

Introduction

Elizabethan collars, often called “the cone of shame”, are a common sight for many pet owners. Frequently recommended by veterinarians to prevent animals from suffering from self-trauma or interfering with surgical sites, these protective shields have been a mainstay in pet care since as far back as 1897. While their primary purpose is to safeguard the animal, the actual experience of the pets wearing them and the collateral effects on their quality of life are subjects less explored.

The Why and How of Elizabethan Collars

These collars are fashioned from rigid plastic, tailored to fit according to an animal’s size, physical build, and the specific area needing protection. The motivations behind their usage range from preventing self-inflicted harm, avoiding disruption of external medical devices, and for combating certain behavioral issues in pets, such as excessive grooming in cats. However, for all their protective benefits, the collars come with their share of problems. Reports suggest they can be bulky, sometimes causing allergic reactions in pets. Moreover, they might not always serve their intended purpose, with some animals cleverly finding ways around their protective barrier.

Digging Deeper: The Survey

A comprehensive survey was conducted using the REDCap web application, which was approved for ethical considerations, to understand the real-world implications of Elizabethan collars on pets. The survey, piloted by veterinarians and vet students, reached a broad audience through various channels.

Findings from the Survey

Out of 434 participants…

  • Most pets wore the collars between 72 hours to a week, but some had them on for months
  • Common reasons included protecting surgical sites and preventing skin condition-related trauma
  • Many pets faced disruptions in daily activities, including eating, playing, and basic hygiene
  • Around a fourth of the respondents mentioned that their pet experienced some collar-related injury, with itching/irritation being predominant
  • Over half of the participants tried alternatives to the traditional collar, with varying degrees of success

Pet Owners Speak

Several anecdotal reports painted a vivid picture of the challenges…

“Animals, especially cats, displayed signs of psychological distress while wearing the collars”

“They frequently bumped into objects, leading to minor injuries or discomfort”

“Their interactions with other pets were affected, sometimes causing friction or fear”

“There were instances of animals injuring their owners unintentionally due to the collar’s design”

“Damage to property, such as scratched walls or ruined furniture, was also reported”

Towards a Balanced Perspective

While the findings indicate that Elizabethan collars can disrupt an animal’s quality of life, it’s essential to remember their protective role. Some owners even considered them a “necessary evil,” noting their importance in specific scenarios, like delicate post-operative care.

However, the study also highlighted instances where the collars might not have been necessary or were inappropriately sized, further underscoring the importance of informed decision-making.

Discussion and Recommendations

Elizabethan collars, while useful, can come with several unintended side effects. These can range from physical discomfort to behavioral changes in pets. Alternatives like inflatable collars, wraps, or even certain medications can sometimes serve as better options, but a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t exist.

Veterinary professionals must be vigilant and advise pet owners about potential challenges and alternatives when prescribing Elizabethan collars.

In pet care, the welfare of the animal should always be paramount. Elizabethan collars, though protective, have certain drawbacks that can affect a pet’s well-being. Veterinary professionals and pet owners must be informed and considerate when choosing the best care path for their furry friends.

References

Shenoda Y, Ward MP, McKeegan D, Fawcett A. “The Cone of Shame”: Welfare Implications of Elizabethan Collar Use on Dogs and Cats as Reported by their Owners. Animals. 2020; 10(2):333. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10020333

Learn more about KeraVet Bio Lead Medical Advisor, , Dr. Cherice Roth, MS, DVM, by visiting her on LinkedIn.