How Important are Elizabethan Collars?
Many people are frustrated when
veterinarians recommend Elizabethan collars for their
pets. Elizabethan collars, also known as space
collars or E-collars, are plastic cones that are
fitted around pets necks to keep them from
excessively licking areas of their body. They also
keep pets from scratching their faces or ears with
their feet. The point of E-collars is to prevent
self-trauma. They are often applied after surgeries
or other medical treatments.
And they are a serious nuisance.
Dogs wearing E-collars generally become walking
disasters. When a large dog rams his E-collar into
your shin, it hurts. If he rubs it against the wall,
it can scrape off the paint. E-collars may knock
over furniture or priceless vases. They make walking
and climbing stairs difficult.
Cats wearing E-collars cant groom themselves, and
they generally become foul-tempered. Some cats go
ballistic, and will struggle ceaselessly to remove the
It is not surprising that many people ask me if their
pet really needs to wear an E-collar after surgery or
some other treatment. The answer is: it depends on
the pet. Some pets will ignore wounds or surgical
incisions and allow them to heal. Others will not.
There is only one way to find out whether your pet
truly needs an E-collarlet him go without it. But
that is a serious gamble.
I was recently walking on a beach in Halong Bay,
Vietnam. There is a type of coral in Vietnam that
causes a serious reaction if it contacts your skin. A
small piece of this coral evidently found its way
between my foot and my flip-flop.
My foot started to itch mildly. So I scratched it.
That made it itch more. So I scratched more. Which
made it itch more. And this cycle would have
repeated indefinitely if I had not known that I would
eventually scratch my way down to the bone.
I had to apply a mental E-collar to myself. I wanted
to scratch that foot, but I forced myself to stop.
An acquaintance present at the time assured me that if
I allowed her to urinate on my foot the situation
would resolve immediately (this apparently is a common
local cure for such situations). I declined her kind
offer, and instead applied a cream containing a
medicine related to prednisone. The itching went away
after a few days, but I had to keep my mental E-collar
on until it did.
My point in telling this story is that dogs and cats
do not understand that repeatedly licking or
scratching an area will damage it. And they can cause
very serious damage to themselves in no time flat. I
have seen cats lick surgical incisions open in less
than an hour. I have seen dogs lick their foot raw
to the level of the bone in a similar amount of time.
Pets cannot use mental E-collars. As annoying as it
may be, they need the real thing.