Counting Down. Is 7 Days Long Enough for My Dog’s Cone?

Introduction

After a surgery or procedure, dogs often have to wear a plastic cone collar, also known as an Elizabethan collar or e-collar, around their neck to prevent them from disturbing their incision site while it heals. This prevents the dog from chewing, licking, or scratching at the affected area, which could delay healing or lead to infection.

This article will cover when it’s safe to remove your dog’s e-collar after surgery, signs that your dog is ready, what to watch out for, alternatives to cones, and when to call your veterinarian. Properly using an e-collar is an important part of your dog’s recovery process.

Why Dogs Wear Cones

Dogs usually have to wear cones after surgery to protect the incision site from irritation and additional injury. Cones prevent dogs from licking, scratching, or chewing the wound as it heals. Dogs’ instincts lead them to lick and gnaw at irritated or painful areas, which can undo surgical stitches and delay healing. Cones create a physical barrier that stops dogs from accessing the incision with their mouths.

dog wearing a plastic elizabethan collar

According to Purina, dog cones “stop your dog from licking or scratching a wound, surgical incision or any other irritation” (source). The rigid plastic prevents them from curling around to reach problem spots while the wound is fresh. Vets usually instruct owners to ensure their dogs wear cones at all times during the initial recovery period to allow proper healing without interference.

Follow Your Vet’s Instructions

It’s crucial to follow your vet’s recommendation on how long your dog should wear the cone after surgery. They will provide guidance based on the specific procedure performed and factors like your dog’s health and activity level. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs should wear an E-collar or cone for 10-14 days after surgery to allow proper healing. This source notes that most sutures and staples are left in for 10-14 days, so the cone should stay on during this time.

If your vet instructs you to keep the cone on for a certain period, do not remove it earlier than they advise even if your dog seems fully recovered. Premature cone removal risks your dog irritating or damaging the incision site by licking or biting it. Patience is required to ensure proper healing. Consult your vet before making any changes to the recommended cone protocol. Providing your dog supervised, cone-free periods may be okay upon approval, but in general stick to your vet’s cone timeline for optimal recovery.

Incision Healing Times

On average, a dog’s incisions with stitches take 10-14 days to heal after surgery according to experts. However, this timeframe can vary depending on factors like the size and location of the incision, as well as your dog’s health and activity level.

Most vets recommend restricting your dog’s activity for at least 7-14 days after surgery to allow the incision to begin healing properly. Jumping, running, and playing can put stress on the incision and cause stitches to tear or reopen the wound. It’s important to limit your dog’s movement during this initial healing period.

person walking their dog on a leash after surgery

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, you may see bruising, swelling, and redness around the incision for the first 5-7 days. This is normal. Signs of infection include increased swelling, discharge, and severe redness. Contact your vet if you notice any of these symptoms.

While stitches and staples usually dissolve and fall out on their own over time, your vet will need to see your dog again 10-14 days after surgery to evaluate how the incision is healing and remove any remaining sutures if necessary.

It can take a full 4-6 weeks for an incision to heal completely internally after the skin has closed up. So you’ll want to continue limiting activity and watching for signs of trouble beyond the first couple of weeks.

Warning Signs

It’s important to monitor the incision site carefully during the healing process. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice any of the following warning signs of infection:

  • Redness around the incision – Some redness is normal initially, but watch for increasing redness that spreads outward from the incision.
  • Swelling at or around the incision site – Moderate swelling can occur early on but should improve quickly. Significant or worsening swelling could indicate a problem.
  • Discharge from the incision – Healthy incisions may have a small amount of clear fluid discharge initially, but yellow, green or foul-smelling discharge indicates infection.

According to a blog post on the Ontario SPCA website, other signs of infection include bruising around the incision, the incision not closing properly, a bad odor, the area feeling warm to the touch, and discharge of fluids [1]. At the first sign of any of these symptoms, contact your vet right away.

Preventing Irritation

It’s important to prevent your dog from licking, scratching, or irritating the incision site. The best way to do this is to keep your dog distracted with toys, treats, and activities. Take them on short, gentle walks to get some exercise. You can also use an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from accessing the incision.

Bitter apple sprays are very useful for preventing licking and chewing. Apply a small amount of bitter spray around the incision and collar. The bad taste helps deter licking. Just be careful not to get any inside the incision. Reapply the spray several times per day.

dog wearing an inflatable collar instead of a plastic cone

Provide chew toys to give your dog an acceptable way to relieve discomfort or anxiety. Supervise your dog closely, and try to catch and stop any licking or scratching right away. Use verbal corrections or distraction rather than punishment.

Supervise Your Dog

Removing the cone can provide relief for your dog, but you should not leave them unsupervised without it. Direct supervision is crucial. This means keeping your dog within eyesight at all times when the cone is off. Don’t allow them to wander into another room alone.

Some veterinarians caution that the cone can be temporarily removed during eating, but only with supervision. This prevents the dog from irritating the incision site. However, the cone must be put back on afterwards.

Dogs should never be left unattended with the cone off, even for short periods. Incisions can become irritated very quickly if licked or bitten. It’s important to continue supervising for the full recovery period recommended by your veterinarian.

According to North Town Veterinary Hospital, “Direct supervision means the animal must be kept within eyesight at all times.” This level of supervision is essential once the cone has been removed to prevent injury.

Source: https://www.northtownvethospital.com/keep-the-cone-on/

Alternatives to Cones

Instead of traditional plastic Elizabethan collars, there are some other options that can provide protection and comfort during recovery. Two popular alternatives are inflatable collars and recovery suits.

Inflatable collars like the ZenPet ZenCollar Inflatable Recovery Collar are made of soft, pliable plastic that inflates with air. They can be more comfortable than rigid plastic cones because they have some give and flex. However, they may not prevent access to the incision site as well as a traditional cone. Inflatable collars should only be used under supervision.

Recovery suits like the Comfy Cone cover the dog’s torso and restrict access to the incision area. They are less bulky than traditional cones. However, dogs may still be able to reach problem areas in the suit. It’s important to closely monitor the dog and use an additional deterrent if needed.

Before switching to an alternative, discuss options with your veterinarian to ensure the alternative provides adequate protection for your dog’s specific needs.

When to Call the Vet

It’s important to monitor your dog closely after surgery to ensure proper healing. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice any of the following signs of possible infection or other complications:

    red swollen infected incision site on a dog

  • Excessive swelling, redness, discharge, or warmth around the incision site
  • Bleeding from the incision
  • Difficulty breathing or signs of respiratory distress
  • Loss of appetite or vomiting/diarrhea
  • Lethargy, weakness, or inability to stand
  • Your dog is bothering, licking, scratching, or rubbing the incision site

Dogs have a tendency to try to lick or scratch at incision sites, which can disturb the surgical site and stitches. Your vet may recommend an Elizabethan collar to prevent this. If your dog persists in bothering the incision despite the cone, contact your vet, as the incision may require additional evaluation.

It’s crucial to follow all of your vet’s instructions for medications, Restricted activity, and incision care. Alert your vet promptly about any concerns so they can determine if your dog needs to come in for a recheck appointment to assess healing and watch for potential complications. Don’t wait if your dog shows signs of infection, as prompt treatment is important for your dog’s recovery.

Conclusion

To briefly summarize, dog cones prevent pets from irritating or interfering with incisions while they heal after medical procedures. It’s important to follow your vet’s specific instructions on how long your dog should wear the cone, as healing times can vary. Leaving the cone on for at least the recommended period helps ensure proper healing and prevents complications. Don’t remove the cone prematurely or you risk infection or other problems. Monitor your dog closely during recovery and call your vet if you notice signs of trouble. With patience and care, your furry friend will be cone-free before you know it. Always defer to your veterinarian’s guidance, as they know your pet’s situation best.

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