Elizabethean Collars (Protective Collars)
By Dr. Karen Burgess
Types of protective collars
- The typical Elizabethean collar or E-collar is a hard plastic cone or lampshade shaped apparatus that fits over a pet’s head with the narrow portion (lampshade top) secured to the neck with a piece of gauze or collar. E-collars are typically used to prevent either self-destruction or injury by a pet. Common uses include after surgery, protection of bandages, prevention of scratching, or prevention of eye rubbing. E-collars are often cumbersome for pets and their owners. Subsequently several newer protective collars have been developed over the years. Some examples include
- Comfy Cone-made of stiff nylon fabric this washable collar this reusable; light weight version is less bothersome for many pets and their owners than the traditional hard plastic collar.
- Recovery Collar-soft nylon fabric collar, typically more appropriate for smaller patients such as cats; does not provide the same degree of restriction as a stiff collar making it inappropriate for some conditions
- Inflatable donut style-these collars do not extend around the head like traditional E-collars making the more tolerable for some. There use is limited to conditions that pets cannot reach around and still access a given area.
- Rigid Velcro style-similar to inflatable collars and resembling a human neck brace
How to properly fit an Elizabethean collar on your pet
An E-collar should fit snugly thus preventing removal by a pet. A good rule of thumb is that if two fingers can fit between whatever is securing the collar and the neck than it is not too tight. Pets should initially be closely monitored to ensure that the collar is fitted appropriately. It is also important to ensure that the length of the collar does not allow access to whatever is being protected, extending just past the nose when viewed from the side.
Initial response to an Elizabethean collar
Pets will range in their response to having and E-collar on. Some will accept it immediately and aside from some initial clumsiness not miss a beat. Others will initially act as if they are paralyzed and unable to move. Finally, some will fight the collar violently trying to paw it off incessantly. Animals that become stuck in one position will typically adjust in a short time frame. It may help to lay them down in a room and let them be while they adjust. Pets that fight a collar may benefit from a walk outside, special treat, or ultimately require being put in a safe room where they are given the opportunity to work things out on their own.
Caring for an Elizabethean collar
General cleaning of the inside and outside of the collar with soap and water is recommended as it gets dirty. Ensure that the collar is kept dry to prevent moisture induced issues. Trimming of the fur may be necessary to assist with moisture control.
Some common concerns regarding the use of Elizabethean collars
- Eating and drinking-pets should still be able to eat and drink with an E-collar in place. Elevation of the food and water bowl two to four inches off the ground will assist with this. Make sure the diameter of bowls is smaller than that of the E-collar. Also be aware the in particular initially pets will be somewhat clumsy and more apt to knock their bowls over. It may be helpful to handfeed your pet from their bowl initially so they can “learn” how to eat with the E-colla in place. Some collars (ex. Comfy Cones) allow for the edge of the collar to be temporarily folded back providing easier access to bowls. If removal of the collar is authorized for feeding this must only be done under direct visual supervision.
- Outside play should be monitored while a pet is wearing an E-collar to avoid becoming trapped or injured unintentionally.
- Running into objects and catching the E-collar on items (ex. stairsteps) is common in the first few days. Peripheral vision and hearing may be affected. Put valuables up and supervise your pet as the adjust to navigating initially.