Dog and cat owners already know their companion animals seem to loathe the‘cone of shame’ they are required to wear after surgery or when they have asore or itchy spot. But very little research has been done to assess thecone’s impact on animal welfare.
Now a study by researchers in the Sydney School of Veterinary Science at theUniversity of Sydney has found the cone, or the ‘Elizabethan collar’ as it’sknown in vet circles, does indeed impact on an animal’s quality of life –owners, too.
The study, undertaken by Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student Yustina Shenodaand supervisors in the Sydney School of Veterinary Science, and published inthe journal Animals _ ,_ surveyed owners about the collar’s impacton their pet’s sleep, eating, drinking, exercise, interactions with otheranimals and overall quality of life.
Owners reported the collar interferes with drinking and playing and can causeinjuries or irritation to the animal. It can also cause injuries to theirowners and damage to property.
“Elizabethan collars are used to prevent self-trauma, especially aftersurgery, so they do play an important role,” said study supervisor Dr AnneFawcett. “But we also learned that some animals suffer from misadventure,injury or irritation due to the collars themselves. Other casualties includedfurniture, buildings and the legs of owners when Elizabethan-collar wearingowners ran into them.”
Cone of Shame problems
A global online survey, aimed at owners whose pets wore an Elizabethan collarduring the past 12 months, was used to investigate the impact that thesecollars had on their animal’s quality of life. Most of the respondents werefrom Australia, with others coming from the UK, USA, New Zealand, SouthAfrica, Ireland and Sweden.
The majority of the 434 respondents reported a worse quality of life scorewhen their companion animal was wearing the collar, significantly so when theElizabethan collar irritated their pet or impacted on their ability to drinkor play. Many owners were reluctant to keep the collar on due to changes inthe animal’s behaviour or mental health.
Problems for cats and dogs wearing the collars include:
- Difficulty drinking (60.2 percent)
- Inability to play (67.5 percent)
- Collar-related injuries, including itching/irritation, bumping into walls, falling downstairs and psychological distress (25 percent)
- Other problems, including difficulty toileting, grooming, being fitted for a harness or lead, getting through dog or cat door, sleeping in a crate, navigating indoors “without smashing into doorways, tables or chairs” (10 percent)
“Our study found that Elizabethan collars had the potential to cause distressin animals, which in turn caused distress to owners,” Dr Fawcett said. “Someanimals found ingenious ways to remove the collars themselves, for examplerunning under furniture at speed, but damaged or poorly fitted Elizabethancollars could increase the risk of injury to animals.”
The study recommends exploring alternative methods to Elizabethan collars tominimise negative welfare impacts including self-trauma, injury ormisadventure, such as:
- Inflatable collars, neck restraints, visors, muzzles, socks or booties, body wraps or clothing.
- Anti-itching medication, pain killers, topical anaesthetics or sedatives.
“We also recommend that members of veterinary teams advise pet owners aboutthe potential negative effects of the collar, including the potential fordiscomfort or injury,” said Yustina Shenoda. “At a minimum we recommend givingowners tips around assisting their animals with drinking and eating, andencouraging owners to monitor their pets when wearing them. This advice couldbe provided verbally or through a brochure that clients can take home.”
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