My dog Fritz, like most dogs who have ever had to wear one, dreads wearing an E-collar. Fritz, who is now 8 years old, is a 4 year cancer survivor, thanks to early detection, and weeks of radiation therapy for malignant Mast Cell tumors when he was only 4 years old. Recently, however, the skin on his left rear thigh, at the site of the radiation treatments, was slightly injured from a fall. Immediate treatment nearly healed the mild brush burn, but Fritz soon began to lick the area.... incessantly. After 4 years of being completely healed, soft, smooth and trouble free, the irradiated skin was suddenly a constant source of irritation. The problem was apparently caused by damaged nerve endings from the radiation... aggravated by the brush burn. After becoming red and very sore it was time for aggressive treatment. The most important step in that treatment would be preventing the dog from licking the area and causing more damage.
Backing up a few weeks, after the first vet visit for the brush burn, we tried several "soft" barriers to prevent licking and give the sore area a chance to heal. One of the worst aspects of the radiation therapy 4 years ago, was getting the red and raw skin to heal afterwards. We vividly remembered how sad and depressed Fritz was while having to wear a giant E-collar for several weeks.
This time, at first, we were only dealing with a minor wound that was barely even a brush burn. Licking wasn't a constant problem, but any licking could cause more damage and we especially wanted to prevent him from licking away the antibiotic ointment. One of the vets suggested buying a pair of toddler pants and cutting a hole for his tail. That worked well for about 5 minutes. Adding a pair of suspenders and trying several configurations to anchor them was not much better. Minutes later, Fritz would be walking around with the suspenders around his neck or collar and the toddler pants hanging by his side.
The secretary at the vet's office suggested that I try cutting up an old turtleneck jersey to make a protective "sleeve" for his leg. She showed me a modified turtleneck that she had designed to prevent her dog from licking a wound on his leg. That worked a little bit better, as long as Fritz was being constantly watched, but during the night he managed to move the jersey out of his way. I woke up to the sound of "lick, lick, lick", and his leg was bright red and very irritated.
My next brainstorm was a pair of dog pajamas. It was hard to find dog pj's in size extra large.... most pet stores have a great selection of sweatsuits and pajamas for small dogs but not for big dogs. I was, however, able to find a nice pair of extra large plaid canine pjs that covered his back legs. They were also not a very good solution since the fit was still quite snug and the fabric against the wound seemed to cause more irritation.
After we tried every trick we could think of to prevent the licking and gnawing and nothing worked, Fritz's leg was looking worse and it was time to face the fact that he had to wear that dreaded ugly lampshade... the E-collar.
Now I am very happy to say that E-collars do work extremely well! With a little time, persistence, and patience, wearing the E-collar has finally allowed his leg to heal!
Elizabethan collars, or E-collars, are made from semi-hard but flexible plastic. They come in a range of sizes to to fit tiny toy breeds and young pups to extra large collars that closely resemble a giant lampshade. They are usually sold by veterinarians but are also available in some pet supply stores.
Getting used to the E-collar again was a real challenge for the dog and for us. You can't be tempted to remove it for a more comfortable night's sleep. When the dog realizes that the collar must stay, he will adjust. A soft pillow really helps.
Most dogs will soon learn to eat and drink while wearing an E-collar, although some modifications to their usual dining equipment may be needed. Fritz was unable to eat and drink from his two-bowl "Big Dog Feeder" for example. A single bowl will allow the E-collar to go over and around it, but for a large dog, a bowl on the floor must either be very deep and filled to the brim, or being able reach the food and water is still a problem. A single, raised bowl is best, especially if the dog is used to eating from a raised feeder. As a solution, I placed a large, round pet bowl on top of a plant stand and that made it the perfect height for Fritz to easily eat and drink while wearing his E-collar.
I recommend tying the E-collar to the dog's regular collar. Fritz's E-collar has loops at the neck end. I put a wide ribbon through the loops and tie that to his regular dog collar. After watching Fritz remove his E-collar with a few paw swipes, I started tying the ribbon to his other collar to prevent this.
A dog wearing an E-collar will bang into furniture and doorways, and get stuck under tables, chairs, and in tight spaces. A watchful eye is essential and wide open spaces make maneuvering much easier.
Fortunately an E-collar is very easy to put on and take off. If your dog is VERY closely watched, the collar can be easily removed, but only when that's absolutely necessary.
An E-collar is the one sure way to stop the licking and allow healing. It takes some getting used to and extra supervision, and Fritz still hates wearing it, but the good results are worth it!
|This E-Collar, by Pet Botanics, is available at Petco.com|
This safe, lightweight, and comfortable E-Collar, with a padded neckline, prevents the endless biting, licking, and scratching. It stops your dog's self-inflicted wound aggravation and allows topical medications to be effective. It's available in sizes from Small to XX-Large.