It’s called the cone of shame, but it’s meant to protect pets. We look at some comfortable alternatives
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
What’s the worst part about your pet having surgery, an injury or an infection? Paws down, your pet would say that it’s being forced to wear an Elizabethan collar -- not the big fancy lace getup popularized during the 16th-century reign of Elizabeth I, but the unwieldy plastic version that your veterinarian sends home with stern warnings that your pet must wear it to prevent chewing or licking at stitches or the affected area.
Pet parents who must get their pets to wear the things dislike them almost as much. Pets bang into walls, can’t get through pet doors, tip over food and water bowls, and do everything they can to get them off, including incessantly scratching at them, shaking their heads, and moaning and groaning until you want to rip it off yourself just so you don’t have to listen to them anymore.
Fortunately, manufacturers and creative owners have come up with a number of alternatives, from inflatable collars to pet or baby onesies to their own clothing.
Soft fabric collars, usually made in a C or donut shape, come in a variety of colors and patterns to suit any size pet and any owner’s whimsy: some resemble an actual donut, a flower, a shark’s mouth or a lion’s mane. They are typically inflatable and adjustable, usually with hook-and-loop or touch fasteners.
Look for features such as the ability to customize the angle of the collar to prevent access to the wound or avoid blocking the animal’s vision; soft, comfortable, water-resistant fabric; and ease of attachment and inflation. Make sure the collar fits well and doesn’t make any squeaky or other noises that could irritate or frighten your dog or cat. The collar should be sturdy enough to discourage not only licking and chewing but also the ingenuity of a pet trying to remove it.
Archie, a redbone coonhound who’d had a tumor removed on his side, hated the plastic e-collar the vet sent home and destroyed an inflatable collar. Ruth, a Boston terrier battling a fungal infection on her leg, was miserable in both an e-collar and a donut collar.
For the animal who resists wearing any kind of recovery collar -- no matter how cute or comfy -- a recovery suit may be the answer. The bodysuits fit closely and cover up surgical incisions or infected areas so pets can’t lick or chew at them. They offer more freedom of movement than collars, and a snug fit can be soothing to pets. Dogs in recovery suits may need close supervision, as destructive, determined or focused animals left to their own devices have been known to take them apart.
Choose one that’s soft, machine washable, easily adjustable for potty breaks, and easy to put on and remove. And make sure it suits your dog’s sense of style. “Rita Sue” left an Amazon review deploring the blue and yellow-striped number purchased by her people (the pink floral being unavailable in her size), although she appreciated the soft fabric, trim fit and pocket on the back for phone and ID.
Alternatives to surgical suits include onesies made for human babies, pet T-shirts and even clothing made for humans.
“I have used my cycling jerseys on my girl Labs to prevent incision licking,” says Linda C. Rehkopf of Powder Springs, Georgia. “(The jerseys have) breathable materials and zips along their backs.” A jersey also came in handy when one of her Labs was weaning puppies but still wanted to be with them.
When Mary Wakabayashi’s dog Hina had sutures at the bottom of her rib cage, dog shirts were too short to cover the area. Wakabayashi used one of her own shirts instead. For wounds on the leg, chest or neck, a long-sleeved T-shirt works well, she says. Socks, tubular bandages and vet wrap can also be used.
Work with your veterinarian and think creatively to discover the best solution for you and your pet.
Cat toy habit
Q: My two cats love to play with toys, and I’m going broke buying them new ones all the time. They become bored with them so quickly. Are there some inexpensive alternatives? (They have multiple scratching posts and places to perch and hide.)
A: Cats can definitely have a short attention span. That works to your advantage because you can put up all their toys and then dole them out two or three at a time. Every few days, swap them out for some “new” ones from the cat toy closet. You save money and your cats can play with something they haven’t seen in a while.
Different cats have different toy preferences, so make sure they have a wide assortment: catnip-filled, feathery, fishing pole- or wand-style toys, crinkle balls, tracks with balls inside that your cats can bat at, a tunnel for them to run through, toys that make noise (put those up at night), and electronic, battery-operated or wind-up toys that move, eliciting your cat’s chase instinct -- the list is endless.
And yes, there are lots of toys you can make yourself. Some of the best you don’t have to make at all because they come readymade to your home: paper grocery bags, empty boxes, and empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls. Crumple up a piece of paper and toss it for them. Pull out a flashlight and let them chase the beam. You can find easy and creative ideas at foodpuzzlesforcats.com.
Finally, remember to make yourself a part of their playtime, too. Drag a toy through the house for them to chase, toss a small ball (Ping-Pong or small tennis balls are fun) for them to chase, set a toy in motion for them to bat at. Attention from you is a cat’s best “toy.” -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
One Health for
pets, people, planet
-- January is One Health Awareness Month, a reminder that the future and fortunes of animals, people and the environment are inextricably linked. The collaborative effort of veterinarians, physicians and other scientists is important in every area: zoonotic diseases, food production, welfare of domestic animals and wildlife, a healthy environment and more. Without their cooperation, it would be easy to miss connections that affect the collective health and safety of humans, animals and the environment. Humans and animals share the same environment and are exposed to the same hazards: secondhand smoke, asbestos, lead, pesticides and more. Sharing information with clients about healthy lifestyles, preventive care, and physical and mental health is one way that physicians and veterinarians can work together. Animal lovers can help by becoming aware of tick-borne and mosquito-borne diseases that affect animals and humans, the effects on wildlife of habitat and biodiversity loss, and food safety issues that affect humans and pets.
-- You probably know that plain canned pumpkin can be a treat for dogs, as well as something your veterinarian may recommend to help firm up the stool in the event of a mild case of diarrhea. But once you’ve opened that can, how are you going to use it up before it goes bad, especially if your dog gets only a teaspoon at a time? Pull out a cookie sheet, line it with wax paper or parchment paper, drop pumpkin on it by the teaspoonful and freeze. Once they’re frozen, you can peel off the pumpkin drops and store them in the freezer in a zippered freezer bag. Then you can pull out one as needed, thawing or giving it to your dog frozen. Either way, he’ll love it, and none of the pumpkin will go to waste. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.