There may come a time when your dog needs to wear an Elizabethan collar (or e-collar — colloquially known as a “cone of shame” or “lamp shade”) due to some injury where they’ll need stitches. If your dog needs one of these collars, it is important that you know the proper way to help acclimate your dog to the medical device. Here are some tips for keeping you dog safe and comfortable whilst wearing an e-collar.

Close Watch — When you come home with your dog wearing the e-collar for the first time, they’ll be understandably disoriented by the experience. Keep close watch on them for the first 24 hours. When they go around the house, keep the following in mind:

  1. Food and Water Bowls — Is your dog able to eat and drink whilst wearing the collar? You may need to move their bowls away from a wall and may even need to elevate the bowls off the ground a bit. Observe how they go about eating and make appropriate adjustments to their bowl placement.
  2. Bed — If your dog sleeps close to a wall in a dog bed, be sure to move it closer to the center of the room. Your dog’s stitches will be tender and bumping into a wall with their cone will be painful. If your dog typically sleeps in a crate, you may need to help them back into it with their head sticking out the doorway or forego the crate altogether.
  3. Doggy doors — Naturally, navigating a doggy door with an e-collar on is ill-advised. Escort your dog in and out of the house and close up the doggy door in a way that is evident to your dog. You don’t want them to bop their head against a closed passage, after all.
  4. Into the Car –Help your dog in and out of a car or truck. Jumping up and down is not good for keeping your dog’s collar secure.

Apart from these things, you’ll want to monitor your dog’s mood and mobility and try to be as comforting and helpful as you can be.

Keeping it on — Even though your dog will inevitably yowl and be extremely pitiable, you need to keep their collar on for as long as your vet recommends it. There will come a point in their recovery when you’ll be able to remove it for extended periods of time; until then, though, the recovery process will require the undisturbed healing of their stitches. Your dog’s instincts are to scratch and prod the vulnerable area, so keeping them from doing so is paramount.

Vision— Your dog will lose their sense of peripheral vision whilst wearing the cone, so be careful and patient when you are walking them. It will take them a while to get used to walking and running around outside, and until they do, you need to watch them carefully. Keep them on a leash and away from harm. It’s better to err on the side of caution when your dog is walking around with a limited field of vision.

Ointment — Though it may not be prescribed, having a topical ointment handy for your dog’s neck will help soothe the soreness. Antiseptic sprays are also helpful to have around as they keep your dog’s wounds clean and free from infection and irritation.

Tightness — The tightness of your dog’s collar should not be restrictive or painful. Be sure that your dog has plenty of room to breathe easy but not so much room that they can scratch at their wounds or pull of their e-collar. To help ease comfort, periodically rotate the cone around your dog’s neck carefully to reveal where the irritation points — if there are any — pop up on their neck.

Encouragement — Pet your dog and lavish them with attention, affection, and care. Be clear that they are not being punished, but that this temporary discomfort is important for their health and safety.