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Why the Cone of Shame Isn’t Your Only Post-Surgery Option

by Jen April |

If a dog wants to lick their wounds after surgery, how do you stop them? After all, it’s an instinctual desire to pay attention to wounds and for dogs, that means licking. Sometimes it also means chewing and nibbling on those wounds.

As veterinarians and dog owners know, the so-called “cone of shame” or Elizabethan collar, is the traditional answer.

Except, it’s not a great answer. It’s not great because everyone knows dogs hate wearing the cone. The cone of shame is awkward, and it gets in the way of the dog’s sight and sound. Plus, some dogs have difficulty navigating their environment with it. If you’ve ever seen a dog running into a doorway while wearing a cone, you understand the problem. 

Additionally, some dogs pout while wearing it or refuse to eat or drink. Others flop around and give pathetic sighs. Usually, the heavy sigh accompanies the “look.” You know, the one that says, “I’m miserable. Why are you doing this to me?” So, it’s not surprising that many people give in within a day or two and take the cone off.

Even if the dog continues wearing the Elizabethan collar for the recommended two weeks, some dogs are still able to reach their foot or hind leg to lick and chew.

What’s a dog lover to do when their furry friend needs to recover from ACL surgery, for example?  

 It’s clear that pet lovers need another solution. Here are three alternatives.

 3 Alternatives to the Cone of Shame 

Honestly, a lot of veterinarians aren’t a fan of these first two. They simply aren’t as effective as the cone. However, they’re better than nothing.

Bitters – There are a variety of bitter flavored products you can try on your pet to dissuade licking. For example, you can find flavors ranging from bitter apple to bitter orange cream. These are designed to keep dogs for licking hot spots and anywhere else they shouldn’t be licking. However, they don’t always work, and some dogs like the taste of the bitters.


Soft collar or Donut - As a result of the dreaded Elizabethan collar, there are soft collar alternatives. As you can see, some of them look similar to a neck pillow. Yet, they aren’t as effective. Veterinarian surgeon Dr. David Allman says, “The blowup collars or donuts are a good example of a product that pulls on the heartstrings of pet owners but really sets their dog up for failure because with a knee surgery they can just lick right around the donut.”

Dog Sleeve Protection – This is a brand-new product developed by a veterinarian surgeon. It’s designed for dogs recovering from common surgeries like ACL, knee joint surgery (often called TPLO), and even bites or cuts.

Unlike the cone of shame, this dog sleeve protection slips right over your dog’s hind leg and doesn’t get in the way of normal activities. In fact, most dogs forget they’re wearing it. That’s the ideal scenario because you want your dog to be happy and healthy. That’s why they had the surgery in the first place.

Here’s how it works. 

In conclusion, a common problem with dogs recovering from ACL or other surgeries is keeping them at rest so they can heal and yet, not bored. If you want ideas on how to keep a dog from licking stitches, the cone of shame is the traditional option. However, dog sleeve protection is a more effective alternative because the dog will keep it on and it doesn’t interfere with your pet’s sight and hearing. 

Veterinarians who are interested in finding out more about this cone of shame alternative, go here.  

Dog owners who want to bypass the cone of shame and go straight to a protective dog sleeve can check out this option



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