'Cone Of Shame' Used On Sick Pets Could Be Impacting Their Welfare

The plastic cone routinely put on pets after surgery may be causing more harm than good, a new study has found.

Research by University of Sydney looked into the impacts on animals when they were forced to wear an 'Elizabethan collar', the plastic cone worn when companion animals are recovering from surgery or have a sore/itchy spot.

The study, led by Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student Yustina Shenoda and supervisors at the Sydney School of Veterinary Science, surveyed more than 400 pet owners whose animals had worn a cone in the past 12 months.

The study was conducted by the Sydney School of Veterinary Science. Image: Supplied

The survey asked owners about the impact on the pet's sleep, drinking, eating, exercise, interactions with other animals and the overall impact on their quality of life.

Study supervisor, Dr Anne Fawcett, said the team wanted to investigate the negative and positive impacts of Elizabethan collars after the anecdotal evidence from pet owners.

"The respondents were extremely passionate, usually they just tick the boxes," she told 10 daily.

"It was amazing how people were engaged and had strong feelings, it touched a nerve."

Bowie the Chihuahua in an 'Elizabethan collar'. Image: University of Sydney

The majority of respondents reported their pet's quality of life was worsened when wearing a cone, particularly if it impacted their ability to play or drink.

Fawcett did note that some of the respondents said their pets were not adversely impacted by the collar.

An inability to play was reported by 67.5 percent of respondents, while difficulty drinking was a problem for 60.2 percent of animals.

The majority of respondents said their pets were negatively affected by the cone. Image: University of Sydney

Collar-related injuries such itching, irritation bumping into walls, falling down stairs or psychological distress were third most common complaint by respondents at 25 percent.

“My dog is a bulldog and his neck got very wet and inflamed from slobbering constantly with it on," said one dog owner in the study.

"He got very down with it on and seemed depressed. Maybe the shape of it was not good for him."



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The study also found it wasn't just pets that were suffering with the collars, but owners as well.

"A few owners also reported that their over-excited pets had raced into their legs, or taking out furniture and ornaments," Fawcett said.

One pet owner in the study said their shins were "so bruised from him banging into me causing less interactions with us".

Owners also reported injuries caused by their pet's cones. Image: University of Sydney

Other problems, including difficulty toileting, grooming, navigating their natural habitat without bumping into obstacles, being able to use a dog/cat door and difficulty putting on a harness or lead were also reported by 10 percent of animal owners surveyed.

Fawcett said that while the cones are commonly used, those involved in the study are keen to further research alternatives.

"Elizabethan collars are important, they may be the best way to protect wounds and stop self-trauma by animals, but there may be better alternatives," Fawcett said.

It is not recommended owners make their own collars. Image: Getty

Initial pain relief, inflatable neck rings (depending on the location of the wound) or putting a T-shirt on the animal were alternatives suggested by Fawcett.

"I would suggest if the animal is having trouble eating or drinking, if they seem distressed, are panting, hiding or not able to go about their daily routine, to talk to a vet," Fawcett advised.

It is also not recommended for owners to make their own cones in case they are ill-fitting and cause animals irritation, Fawcett said.

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