How Long Should A Dog Wear A Cone After Neuter, Surgery, Stitches & Other Procedures?

How Long Should A Dog Wear A Cone

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This is the complete guide on how long your dog should wear a cone.  

How long your dog needs to wear a cone vastly depends on the condition being treated. For instance, wearing a cone after being spayed does not have the same duration as wearing a cone after eye surgery.

One of the biggest mistakes that dog owners will make is removing the cone too soon. This can cause a setback in the recovery process. It can also aggravate the wound if your dog is free to lick it away. Your dog will hate the cone but crucial you leave it on as long as is needed.

Did your dog get hurt and is now wearing a cone? Does your canine have an upcoming surgery that requires a cone? Wondering when you can take your dog’s cone off?

This post breaks down cone-wearing duration by health condition, risks of removing the cone too soon, when it’s okay to take it off, dog cone alternatives, and more. Let’s get started!

Why Do Dogs Need To Wear Cones?

Dog cones, also known as Elizabethan collars or E-collars, act as a barrier to stop your dog from licking or scratching a wound, itchy skin, topical medication, or other injuries. Even for the best of behaved dogs, it is common to lick and scratch their wounds.  Therefore, the cone must stay on until your dog is fully healed.

Risks Dog Cone-Wearing

Most dogs don’t find wearing a cone fun, and there are risks associated with it. In a study conducted by The University of Sydney, researchers found that: 

  • 60% of pets had difficulty drinking 
  • 68% couldn’t play 
  • 25% experienced collar-related injuries, including itching/irritation, bumping into walls, falling downstairs, and psychological distress 
  • 10% had other issues, including difficulty going to the bathroom, grooming, being fitted for a harness or leash, getting through a dog door, sleeping in a crate, and navigating indoors.

A survey reported that 77.4% of pets had poorer quality of life while wearing the cone. The quality of life was based on effects in various welfare domains, including nutrition, environment, health, behavior, and mental state. The research also informed us that Elizabethan collars could increase stress levels, which can result in abraded or ulcerated skin around the neck as well as lead to aggressive interactions with other animals.1

Dog cones generally result in a narrower field of view, obstruct peripheral vision and hearing. It may be frightening and uncomfortable for dogs.

Inadequate monitoring and wearing can result in injuries for pets, possible deaths, asphyxiation, as well as further costs for their owners, and liability to veterinarians.

Further, dogs can destroy their cones by scratching, clawing, or chewing the collar itself and potentially harming themselves.

Can Dogs Escape From The Cone?

434 pet parents reported that 23.7% of their pets sometimes removed the Elizabethan collar themselves, and 4.8% did so frequently. This is a huge risk, and you need to take the necessary precautions, so this doesn’t happen. If you have a Houdini dog at home, a more secure fastening of the e-collar may be a necessary or better alternative.

You can prevent this by tying the cone to the animal’s regular collar or harness or opt-out for a more secure alternative.

Dog Depressed Wearing Cone

Do dogs get depressed wearing a cone? Because collar wearing is reported to cause stress, a depressed mood in dogs may result from cone-wearing. Many dog owners report their dogs and cats seem depressed when wearing a cone. This is highly likely because pet cones interfere with virtually all aspects of their lives.

One of the many testimonials from dog owners in the study said:

“My dog is a bulldog and his neck got very wet and inflamed from constantly slobbering with it on. He got very down with it on and seemed depressed. Maybe the shape of it was not good for him.”

Monitoring your dog while they are wearing a cone can help you mitigate most of these risks. Prolonging cone-wearing duration in dogs can increase the risks stated above. It’s important to remove the cone at the appropriate time. Removing it too soon can also cause complications.

There are alternatives for dog cones that can prevent self-trauma and minimize the potential negative impacts of dog cones.

Benefits Of Dog Cones

Sara Ochoa, DVM, at Whitehouse Veterinary Hospital in Whitehouse, Texas. “Cones are important to keep your pet from causing any problems with their skin or surgical site. Some pets will easily make things much worse for them and even remove stitches from a surgical site causing major complications.”2 

Here are the main benefits and reasons for wearing a dog cone.

  • Act as a barrier to that protects wounds areas
  • Protects them from licking their wound and injury obsessively
  • Promotes a speedy recovery process 
  • They promote faster healing
  • Protect head lesions, including eyes and ears, from being scratched or rubbed by the animal
  • Protect the animal from hurting itself
  • A cone may help you avoid paying for another surgery or additional vet visit

How To Prepare Your Dog For Wearing A Cone

The goal is for your dog to see the cone (Elizabeth collar) as neutral or positive.

If you know ahead of time that your pup will need to wear a cone, you can take steps to get them used to it.

  1. Hold the cone or put it near you on the ground.
  2. Reward your dog with a treat anytime they show interest in the cone.
  3. Hold the cone with the wide opening facing your dog.  Reward with treats if their head goes in the cone.
  4. Present the cone with the small opening. Reward with treats if they put their head in the cone.

In the beginning, keep these sessions around 3-5 minutes.

  1. Begin to increase the duration. Reward your dog for keeping its head in the cone longer and longer. 
  2. Add in rotating the cone around their head while they’re wearing it. Reward throughout. 
  3. Tap on the cone inside and outside to help your dog get used to the different sounds they will hear.
  4. Walk around with your dog while they’re wearing the cone to help get used to maneuvering with it.
  5. Encourage them to keep their head up while walking to avoid hitting the floor.
  6. Help them move through doorways and around corners, so they learn not to run into them.

How Long Should A Dog Wear A Cone?

How many days or weeks your dog wears a cone depends on the type of injury and its recovery time.

Here are the most common conditions that require dogs to wear cones and how long it has to pass before removing their cones.

Stitches | Dissolvable Stitches | Surgery | Eye Surgery | Neutered | Laser Neuter | Spayed | TPLO Surgery | Hotspots | Entropion Surgery | ACL Surgery | Knee Surgery | Ear Cropping |

How Long Should A Dog Wear A Cone After Stitches?

Removing a dog cone after stitches depends on the type of surgery or procedure performed.

Dog surgical stitches stay in long enough to promote complete healing, and they need to be removed by a vet. Typically, stitches are usually removed 10-14 days after the operation. At which time, your vet may also remove your dog’s cone.

Naturally, a less invasive operation, such as neutering or spaying, should heal within a couple of weeks. A more complicated surgery, such as a hip replacement, could take several months to heal completely. So, your vet may choose to extend cone wearing until he deems it’s safe for your dog not to wear one.

Vets recommend that dogs keep their cones on until the stitches are removed. 

How Long Should A Dog Wear A Cone After Dissolvable Stitches?

According to Jennifer Summerfield, DVM CPDT-KA Veterinarian, she tells her patients they can remove the cone in 10-14 days.  The sutures won’t be dissolved yet, but the incision will be healed at that point.

She recommends asking your vet how long you should leave the cone on.  Most types of dissolvable stitches fall out within a week or two, although it may be a few weeks before they disappear completely. But it doesn’t matter your dog licks or chews the incision before that, as long as the incision has already healed, says Dr. Summerfield.3

How Long Should Your Dog Wear A Cone After Surgery?

According to Dr. Ochoa, says a cone should stay on about 7-10 days. Regardless of the type of surgery, the cone should stay on until the incision site is healed and the sutures are removed. You may have to extend dog cone-wearing if the incision has not healed completely.

How Long Should A Dog Wear A Cone After Eye Surgery?

Michigan State University’s Veterinary Medical Center says dogs must always wear a protective Elizabethan collar for approximately four weeks following cataract surgery.4

For other eye surgeries to correct things like glaucoma, corneal ulcers, and eyelid entropion, expect your dog to be in a cone for up to two weeks. But your vet will have to decide when to take it off.

How Long Should A Dog Wear A Cone After Being Neutered?

Within a few days after surgery, the incisions will itch, and your dog may try to bite or scratch the incision, so you must leave it on 24/7. 

Most neuter skin incisions are fully healed within about 10–14 days, which coincides with the time that stitches or staples will need to be removed. Once the incision has healed, your vet will also give you the green light to remove the cone.

The general rule of thumb after neutering is wearing the cone for about 14 days. 

How Long Should Dog Wear Cone After Laser Neuter?

More veterinarians are performing surgeries with lasers because of the benefits.  A case study published in Veterinary Practice News showed laser neuter had reduced bleeding, blood loss, and rapid recovery. Veterinarians note that they also see less pain, less swelling, extreme precision, and reduced risk of infection.

Using lasers instead of a scalpel for neutering can give the surgeon extreme precision. Nonetheless, cone-wearing duration after the procedures tends to be the same.

Although some canines have a quick recovery, vets set expectations that a cone should be worn until it’s completely healed, which can still take up to 14 days with this procedure.  

How Long Should A Dog Wear A Cone After Being Spayed?

After a female dog has been spayed, you will want to make sure she wears her cone for at least ten days. An average spaying incision typically takes 10-14 days to heal fully. Keeping your dog’s e-collar on while limiting her activity levels for at least 2 weeks following the spaying surgery is a must before removing the cone.

How Long Does A Dog Have To Wear A Cone After TPLO Surgery?

 TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) is one of the most popular orthopedic surgeries performed on dogs who have torn their cranial cruciate ligament, also known as a dog’s torn ACL.

Typically, the first 12 weeks following the surgery are key for recovery. Your dog must keep the cone on for as long as your veterinarian recommends it. Knee incisions may be sore after two weeks, but your dog should be able to see a decrease in swelling, bruising, and redness. Dogs after TLPO surgery may have to wear the cone for up to a month or less.

Full TLPO surgery recovery can take up to 6 months.

How Long Should A Dog Wear A Cone For A Hotspot?

Canine hot spots are red skin lesions, also known as Pyotraumatic Dermatitis or acute moist dermatitis.  They can be found anywhere on a dog’s body; however, the head, legs, and hips are common areas. 

According to the American Kennel Club, most dogs improve rapidly after treatment has started. In many cases, the dog hot spot resolves in as little as 3–7 days after the start of treatment.

Since hot spots are so common, there are topical treatments that dog parents can use to help them heal. Depending on how severe that hot spot is, your pup may need to wear a cone for 7-14 days to avoid further irritation or licking off the topical solution. Some cases may require cone-wearing for up three weeks.

How Long Does A Dog Have To Wear A Cone After Entropion Surgery?

 Entropion is a condition in dogs in which your eyelid turns inward so that your eyelashes and skin rub against the eye surface

The treatment for entropion is eye surgical correction. A section of skin is removed from the affected eyelid to reverse its inward rolling.

According to South Eastern Animal Hospital, dogs need to wear a cone until suture removal to prevent rubbing the eyes with a paw or on the carpet, causing trauma, and removing sutures. The sutures are removed 14 days post-surgery so you can expect your pup to be cone-free two weeks after Entropion Surgery.6

Your pet’s eyes will take some weeks to heal and usually, within a month, will be back to normal.  

How Long Should A Dog Wear A Cone After ACL Surgery?

Dog ACL surgery requires making a small cut at the top of the tibia bone. Most clinics will remove sutures or staples on or around day 14 post-surgery. Your vet will also remove the cone around if the incision has closed completely and/or there is no infection.

Be sure to keep the cone on your dog at all times so that the point of the incision is not irritated by your pet’s licking.

The total recovery period for ACL dog surgery is about 12 to 16 weeks says.

How Long Should Dog Wear Cone After Knee Surgery?

The most prevalent reason for knee surgery in dogs is when they tear their cranial cruciate ligament. The CCL in your dog’s knee is the same as the ACL in your knee. There are many surgical options to repair the CCL.

  • Traditional Extracapsular Lateral Suture Technique 
  • Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)
  • Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA Surgery)
  • Tightrope Technique

Regardless of the surgery method chosen, your dog may need to wear a cone for 2-4 weeks.

How Long Does A Dog Have To Wear A Cone After Ear Cropping?

Ear cropping is when the floppy part of the ear is cut into a more desired shape. Examples of breeds this is common with are Dobermans, Boxers, Great Danes, and Schnauzers.

Because ears are a sensitive body part, dogs that have gone through ear cropping surgery may need to keep their cones for 2 to 3 weeks.

While most surgical wounds take about two weeks to heal and most sutures and staples are often removed around 10-14 days, ear lesions may take more than 10-14 days to heal completely.

In the case of Dobermans, for the ears to heal in the desired upright precision after surgery, they must be “posted” to a hard surface and taped until completely healed. Bandages need to be changed weekly, typically. The entire process can last from 4-8 weeks.

Be sure only to remove the cone with your vet’s approval. Your pup may need to wear a cone for more than 4 weeks.

How To Make Dog Cone More Comfortable

If your dog is uncomfortable when wearing a cone, here are some things you can do to make it easier on your pet.

REMEMBER: A well-fitted cone will be snug around the neck, loose enough to be able to insert one or two fingers between the collar and neck but tight enough to keep your dog from removing it. It is important to avoid applying pressure to the neck with any hard edges. The cone should extend beyond the animal’s nose, depending on the area you are protecting. 

Most pets adapt to a cone within 24 hours.  Here are some things you can do to help make it a little easier while they are adjusting.

  1. Make extra room and remove any obstacles in your home that may obstruce your dog’s path.
  2. Help them navigate throughout the home and outside until they get used to it.
  3. Don’t leave them alone or unattended
  4. Pull food and water bowls away from walls
  5. If you have stairs, be sure to home-proof your home and living space so your dog doesn’t fall or trip over something
  6. Consider hand feeding your dog and assisting them with drinking water
  7. Make sure the cone fits well  
  8. Use cone alternatives to the traditonal Elizabeth collar
  9. Keeping the cone on and adjusting with it
  10. Ensuring the dog cone is not tight
  11. Praise and reinforce good cone behavior
  12. Carry your pup when necesary (i.e., stairs, getting in the car, etc)
  13. Create a comfortable spot for them to sleep
  14. Give them a cone break but only under supervision (ask your vet if this is possible)
  15. The Massachusetts SPCA recommends using t-shirts to protect your pets after surgery. 

When Is It Okay To Temporarily Take Off The Cone?

Once your dog begins to heal, you may find it appropriate to remove the cone under supervision for certain activities. Examples are during mealtimes or other short periods where the cone is in the way.

A study revealed that more than half (54.1%) of pet owners removed the Elizabethan collar only for periods that the animal was under supervision, and 24.9% only removed the Elizabethan collar for certain activities, for example, when the animal was being fed or given water.1

Direct supervision means Fido is in direct sight, and you can immediately stop any undesired licking, biting, rubbing, or scratching. As soon your dog is finished eating, or you cannot provide direct supervision, the cone should be immediately and securely replaced. 

How To Put A Cone On A Dog? 

Putting a cone on your dog should be easy.  Here is a video that demonstrates the correct way to put it on.

Dog Cone Alternatives

Experts recommend exploring alternative methods to dog cones to minimize negative welfare impacts, including self-trauma, injury, or misadventure.

If your dog won’t wear a cone, here are our top recommend options for dog cone alternatives.

Soft Collars

If you think the hard plastic on a traditional cone is an issue, soft collars can be a good alternative.  As the name suggests, they are softer and can be more comfortable.  Another benefit is some soft collars fold down to make it easier for your pet to eat and drink. 

The Comfy Cone E-Collar for Dogs is a great alternative to the traditional plastic dog cone. It’s a soft, cone-shaped Elizabethan collar that helps your precious pet heal and recovers in comfort from surgeries, procedures, allergic reactions, hot spots, and more.

Alfie Pet Keeva Recovery Collar for Dogs is another good option.

A few disadvantages to be aware of are that dogs can pull these off easily and are not see-through, so your pup may have a hard time seeing in front of them.

Inflatable Collars

Inflatable collars might work in some cases but aren’t meant for long-term use. These collars can puncture easily, so pet parents should pay close attention to the collar’s condition if they choose this option. Additionally, inflatable e-collars may not effectively block access to all parts of the body. They do offer increased mobility and visibility compared to other options.  ZenPet ZenCollar Inflatable Recovery Dog is a top choice. BENCMATE Protective Inflatable Collar is also good.

Neck Collar

Neck collars look a lot like a neck brace a human would wear. They’re smaller and softer than a traditional cone and wrap around the neck.  These prevent dogs from reaching any area behind their neck and are supposed to let your pup lie down, sleep, eat and drink in comfort. 

These aren’t meant to be worn longer than 8-10 hours, and if your dog needs a long cone to keep them from biting and scratching, this may not be the option for you. Sturdier than the inflatables. Not recommended for protecting ears or eyes, though. The BiteNot Collar is our top pick in this category.

Surgical Recovery Suit

This is not a cone. The surgical recovery suite is a fabric that covers most of the dog’s body, like a baby onesie. It can be a good option if your dog can’t stand to have anything on its neck.  

Heavy chewers could cause it to get ripped. It acts as a second skin. It allows your dog to go about his normal routine, all the while keeping the wound clean, dry, and protected. The material allows air to circulate the wound for healing, with built-in pockets for gauze pads.

Suitical Recovery Suit for Dogs and Dotoner Dog Bodysuit are excellent choices. The Massachusetts SPCA recommends using t-shirts to protect your pets after surgery.7 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about dog cone-wearing our readers ask.

Can My Dog Sleep With A Cone On?

Yes.  You should not take it off at night.  If your dog is having trouble sleeping, give your vet a call to see what they suggest.  It can take 1-2 days to get used to the collar at night.

Dogs Won’t Wear A Cone

Dogs are likely to reject cones because they are freighted by them or feel uncomfortable when wearing them. Before putting on a cone on your dog, you need to introduce the cone through positive reinforcement. It is better to train the dog beforehand.

Can You Cut Down A Dog Cone?

If you end up using a traditional cone, you can trim it.  The cone doesn’t need to go past a dog’s nose so that you can cut around the wide part of the cone.  If you’re using a cone that fastens with Velcro and has excess plastic on the side, you can also trim that off.   

How Should a Dog Cone Fit?

The fit of a dog cone is essential.  You should be able to stick two fingers between the cone and your dog’s fur.  It should be long enough that the tip of their nose sticks out. 

Dog Cone Not Long Enough?

Some dog breeds with longer snouts, like Dobermans, need a cone that will be long enough to keep them from licking or chewing on their wounds.  Cones come in many sizes, so you should be able to find a good fit for your pup.

Some cones have a cone extender panel that you can use to make the cone deeper.  Always check with your vet before you leave the office to make sure the cone fits appropriately.

Dog Cone Wearing Duration

Ensuring your dog wears the cone for the required amount is a necessary step in the healing process.

Not wearing a cone can lead to complications after an injury or surgery. Remember always to monitor while he is still wearing the cone.

Always be sure to consult your veterinarian if your dog has any problems with their cone or before taking off the cone for good.  

Sources and References: [1] University of Sydney [2] White House Veterinary Hospital [3] Pet Coach [4] Michigan State University [5] AEsculight [6] South Eastern Animal Hospital [7] MSPCA

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