What's the worst part about your pet having surgery, an injury or an infection?
Paws down, your pet would say that it's being forced to wear an Elizabethan collar — not the big fancy lace getup popularized during the 16th-century reign of Elizabeth I, but the unwieldy plastic version that your veterinarian sends home with stern warnings that your pet must wear it to prevent chewing or licking at stitches or an affected area.
Pet parents who must get their pets to wear the things dislike them almost as much. Pets bang into walls, can't get through pet doors, tip over food and water bowls, and do everything they can to get them off, including incessantly scratching at them, shaking their heads, and moaning and groaning until you want to rip it off yourself just so you don't have to listen to them anymore.
Fortunately, manufacturers and creative owners have come up with a number of alternatives, from inflatable collars to baby onesies to using their own clothing.
Soft fabric collars, usually made in a C or doughnut shape, come in a variety of colors and patterns to suit any size pet and any owner's whimsy. Some resemble an actual doughnut, others look like a flower, a shark's mouth or even a lion's mane. They are typically inflatable and adjustable, usually with hook-and-loop or touch fasteners.
Look for features such as the ability to customize the angle of the collar to prevent access to the wound or avoid blocking the animal's vision; soft, comfortable, water-resistant fabric; and ease of attachment and inflation.
Make sure the collar fits well and doesn't make any noises that could irritate or frighten your dog or cat. The collar should be sturdy enough to discourage not only licking and chewing but also the ingenuity of a pet trying to remove it.
Archie, a redbone coonhound who had a tumor removed on his side, hated the plastic e-collar the vet sent home and destroyed an inflatable collar. Ruth, a Boston terrier battling a fungal infection on her leg, was miserable in both an e-collar and a doughnut collar.
They are among the animals who resist wearing any kind of recovery collar — no matter how cute or comfy. For them, a recovery suit may be the answer.
The bodysuits fit closely and cover up surgical incisions or infected areas so pets can't lick or chew at them. They offer more freedom of movement than collars, and a snug fit can be soothing to some pets. Dogs in recovery suits may need close supervision, as destructive, determined or focused animals left to their own devices have been known to tear them apart.
If you use a recovery suit, choose one that's soft, machine-washable, easily adjustable for potty breaks, and easy to put on and remove. Oh, and make sure it suits your dog's sense of style. A dog named Rita Sue left an Amazon review deploring the blue and yellow-striped number purchased by her people (the pink floral being unavailable in her size), although she appreciated the soft fabric, trim fit and pocket on the back for phone and ID.
Alternatives to surgical suits include onesies made for human babies, pet T-shirts and even clothing made for humans.
"I have used my cycling jerseys on my girl Labs to prevent incision licking," says Linda Rehkopf of Powder Springs, Ga. The jerseys have "breathable materials and zips along their backs." A jersey also came in handy when one of her Labs was weaning her puppies but still wanted to be with them.
When Mary Wakabayashi's dog Hina had sutures at the bottom of her rib cage, dog shirts were too short to cover the area. Wakabayashi used one of her own shirts instead. For wounds on the leg, chest or neck, a long-sleeved T-shirt works well, she says. Socks, tubular bandages and vet wrap can also be used.
Work with your veterinarian and think creatively to discover the best solution for you and your pet.