Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What is an Elizabethan Collar?

By Ruthie Bently

I have had several experiences with Elizabethan collars for animals (also known as a space collar, an E-collar or a cone). Some of my dogs were embarrassed to wear them, and others would do anything to get past them to what they wanted to chew or lick. Queen Elizabeth the First is credited with popularizing the Elizabethan collar for humans, which was made of lace and was a stiff ruff added to clothing to keep someone’s clothing from getting dirty around their neck.

However, this article is about the Elizabethan collar for pets, which was first patented by F.L. Johnson in 1962. I couldn’t find any other information about the person who invented this device, so I can’t tell you if they were a veterinarian or just someone who wanted to help their own animal. The original E-collar was made of a fairly rigid piece of plastic that was a conical shape. It fit around an animal’s neck and attached to their regular collar to help keep it in place.

E-Collars are still primarily made of plastic, although cloth ones are also available, and different styles exist. There is even an inflatable model now, which looks like a large doughnut that goes around the pet’s neck. While they look comfortable, I would not trust my dog with this type of E-collar; one well-placed grab with a tooth or toenail and it would be history (and believe me, Skye would be doing her best to puncture it).

The purpose of an Elizabethan collar is to prevent an animal from reaching a specific part of their own body to keep them from licking or chewing, either on a wound, sore (like a hot spot) or stitches after a surgical procedure. They are usually used on dogs and cats, but I have heard of instances of them being used on birds (for feather plucking) and on horses. The small end is put around the pet’s neck so their head is within the confines of the cone and the larger circle of the cone projects out from the dog’s body away from their neck.

The first time an owner sees an E-collar they usually have to stifle a laugh, because the vision of their pet walking around with a lampshade-shaped object around their neck can be quite humorous. Most pets adjust to the E-collar just fine after wearing them for a few minutes, though they usually need to have them removed so they can eat or drink water. Try to be sympathetic and not laugh if your pet bumps into a wall or doorways; the E-collar can restrict their peripheral vision and make it harder to move around the house until they get used to wearing it.

You can make your own version of an Elizabethan collar by using a plastic bucket or plastic flower pot. I even read an article that states you can make one from paper plates, but if you live with a serious chewer like I do, I wouldn’t advise that. To make your own E-collar, cut a hole just large enough for your pet’s head to go through in the bottom of whatever object you choose to use. You can use sandpaper to smooth the edge, and tape around the rim to prevent any excessive rubbing on your pet’s neck. To keep the E-Collar attached to your pet’s regular collar so it doesn’t come off, punch several holes around the rim of the hole you cut for your pet’s head and use a shoestring cut into several pieces to attach it to your pet’s collar.

Many people have a love-hate relationship with the Elizabethan collar, but by using one for your pet when you need to, you can eliminate the need for medicating your animal to keep it calmer. They may look funny, but E-collars greatly help to prevent the need for re-stitching a wound that has been opened by your pet’s excessive licking.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ruthie,

    These E-collars were invented in the late 50's by Peter De Normanville (a documentary film cameraman and director) of Hampstead London for his golden retriever Deana.

    All the best,


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