Cone of Shame Alternatives

When my dog Sadie had surgery this past spring, I wanted to investigate cone of shame alternatives for her recovery. I knew she would be coming home from the animal hospital wearing what they call an Elizabethean collar.

But let’s be honest — it’s the cone of shame. And even if Sadie wasn’t “embarrassed” to be wearing one, I didn’t like the idea of her having to wear a plastic neck collar.

What is the cone of shame

I think I first learned the term cone of shame from the Disney/Pixar movie “Up.” It’s when the dog called Doug in the movie is put in a cone of shame as punishment.

However, in real-life the cone of shame is that aforementioned plastic Elizabethean collar that vets use after surgery. It’s designed to prevent a dog from biting at its stitches or a hot spot on their skin.

What I don’t like about these plastic collars is that they often have a hard edge that sits next to your dog’s neck. Even with thick fur, it looks so uncomfortable.

Also, I worry about the length of the plastic collar. Sometimes, with smaller dogs like Sadie, it’s long enough to prevent her getting to her stitches. However, it’s also too long for her to drink from a water dish.

Why did Sadie need a cone of shame

So, why did my dog Sadie need to have surgery? Last spring, after sprinting down a set of stairs and taking a corner too fast, she tore the doggie version of the ACL or the anterior cruciate ligament.

Dogs don’t have an ACL. Instead they have something called the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in their legs.

Then, if they rupture it like Sadie did, they go through a surgery with another acronym — TPLO. That stands for tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, which helps to stabilize the knee joint. In Sadie’s case, she also received an implant to further stabilize it.

sadie laying on floor with shaved leg and surgical site showing
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

After surgery, she had stitches and staples at the surgery site. Even though she was on the doggie version of bed rest and never left my side, there were times when I had to crate her. And I couldn’t take the chance of her going after that surgical site. Thus, the need for a collar.

Getting a cone of shame alternative

cone of shame alternative on sadie on top of the couch
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

A friend told me there were cone of shame alternatives I could find on Amazon. The one she recommended looks like the soft, U-shaped travel pillow you might use on a long flight.

However, it isn’t 100% like those human travel pillows. With the ones you use on an airplane, they have stuffing, or at least the ones we own do. However, this doggie neck pillow is inflatable. So, you can make it as loose or as tight as you need to fit your dog’s neck.

Also, it had an easy to secure loop and Velcro tab to keep it secure but without making it a choking hazard.

Final thoughts on this cone of shame alternative

So, did it work? Sure did.

However, as Sadie healed and became more mobile, my doggie ninja figured out a way to work around the collar.

The good news was that, by that time, her staples had come out — they were removed on day 14 after surgery. So, she was at a lower risk of complications as the incision had started to heal.

sadie portrait with shaved leg
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Even so, I continued to keep the inflatable neck collar on her and would redirect her if I saw her starting to go after the incision. For example, I’d frozen organic* chicken broth in little Rubbermaid containers as a “lick mat” to keep her busy. This is usually when I would give one to her.

frozen chicken broth for sadie to lick
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

*Organic chicken broth usually does not include garlic or onion, two poisonous foods for dogs. However, make sure you always check the label just to be sure.

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