Whether your dog has had a recent surgical procedure or is riding out allergy season, sometimes cones are a helpful method for protecting your pup.
However, cones can have some drawbacks that make them a poor option for some dogs. Thankfully, the best dog cone alternatives work well in different situations, depending on your dog’s needs.
Why Don’t Dog Cones Work?
While cones can protect some dogs, not every furry friend is cut out to benefit from them. Normal cones are thin plastic and guard the area around your dog’s head.
The thin material can be flimsy and often is no match for more determined dogs. Also, because they can be easy to get out of, the dogs who don’t chew the cone to pieces may be able to escape it instead. We’ve had dogs who did both, so if you’re in this situation, we know your pain!
The barrier to their vision and the sound amplification with a standard cone can overstimulate and worry some dogs. The constant presence around their face may also be bothersome and can cause anxiety-prone dogs’ conditions to worsen.
Even with all the drawbacks, cones represent a necessary protection and prevention method with many medical uses. Thankfully, many companies have improved upon the standard cone and provided great alternatives that your dog will greatly prefer.
Here are the best dog cone alternatives you should consider the next time the vet suggests the dreaded cone of shame.
With these neck-pillow-esque cone alternatives, your pup will look more like a world traveler than a recent veterinary patient. Inflatable collars are often far more comfortable for dogs because they don’t hinder hearing or vision.
Because these collars are soft, you also don’t have to worry about your dog running into or breaking anything. The padding also helps prevent any piece of the cone alternative from rubbing your dog’s neck and causing skin irritation.
However, the benefits of the inflatable collar also represent its drawbacks. For pups who’ve undergone surgery or are suffering from intense allergies that cause chewing or gnawing, this option likely won’t be sturdy enough to prevent these behaviors. A determined dog, like some we’ve had, can fang-pop that pillow in no time, so you might need to find another option for rambunctious pets.
Many authorities advise using an inflatable collar alongside a traditional cone. This way, you can have the sturdy reliability and protection of the original version while also offering your dog an occasional supervised break from the cone of shame.
Soft e-collars, or soft cones, are a great middle point between inflatable collars and traditional plastic cones. They offer increased mobility and comfort. Out of all the best dog cone alternatives, these are some of the most reasonably priced, and they also come in a wide range of varieties, including colors and styles.
If your dog has a mellow personality, a soft e-collar could make a great cone alternative. For more passive or happy-go-lucky dogs, the soft cone provides just enough of a deterrent to keep them from chewing stitches or biting itchy spots.
However, similar to the inflatable collar, the soft and bendable material won’t be enough to keep a determined dog from chewing and licking. However, you could alternate between using a traditional cone during the day and a more comfortable soft e-collar at night to help your dog sleep more soundly.
While this option isn’t a cone or collar, it provides the same sort of protection and damage prevention from a different perspective.
Like a tight but stretchy pajama onesie, these bodysuits can protect your dog’s skin from licking and chewing without hindering its vision or hearing.
Some dogs even benefit from tight, secure vests or clothing when it comes to anxiety and fear. Many dog owners find that their dogs experience a similar, secure feeling when wearing a bodysuit in place of a cone.
The major drawback of this option is that it can be difficult to properly size your dog so that the suit fits just right: not too tight and not too loose. Get one too loose, and your dog might wriggle out of it just as easily as with a traditional cone.
However, if you have some time before you’ll need the suit, you can order them at a range of online retailers that provide sizing charts to help you measure your pup to pick the best possible size to try.
If you’ve tried a bodysuit and didn’t enjoy having to wrestle it onto your pup, or you realized that it made them hot or uncomfortable, a surgical sleeve may be another good option. This alternative functions like a bodysuit made with the same fabric but only covers one leg.
Because of this, it’s best for dogs who are dealing with hotspots, allergy itches, or stitches on their leg area. For other surgery sites, like spay or neuter stitches, a surgical sleeve won’t cut it.
Snaps or Velcro make this option easy to get on and off. Some companies also make them to fit snugly over one of your dog’s back legs, so this option is highly customizable to your pup’s needs.
Each sleeve is also usually machine washable, making it one of the best dog cone alternatives to have on hand in case other options fail you.
Structured Soft E-Collars
If a soft e-collar simply won’t provide enough security for your determined pup, the structured soft cone is a great compromise. These cones are similar to the soft e-collars but come with (often removable) ribbing that provides a sort of skeleton for the cone.
This way, you can remove the structure from the cone when your pup is sleeping or feeling calm, but you don’t have to worry about not being able to contain its chewing and licking when it picks back up again.
These cone alternatives are adjustable and soft, and they also come in a variety of styles and colors. However, since they’re also solid and not see-through, they may still not be a great option for anxiety-prone dogs.
For heavy chewers that have a mind of their own, a structured soft e-collar can be a good overall alternative to a cone so that you can ditch the flimsy plastic and help your pet feel both comfortable and protected while convalescing at home.
What to Consider When Choosing a Dog Cone Alternative
While the best dog cone alternatives offer great coverage in certain situations, not all will be well-suited to your pet’s unique situation. Remember to consider these factors when deciding which option is best for your pup.
Always measure your dog based on the manufacturer’s sizing guide or chart. If a cone alternative doesn’t come in the right size to keep it comfortable but secure and protected at the same time, then it’s not the right one for them.
We all know our dogs better than anyone else. If you have a determined or headstrong dog, then it’s better to find something more resistant that it won’t be able to outsmart. Options with structure or bodysuits are great for these kinds of pets.
We once used an old T-shirt around our dog’s hindquarters when nothing else worked, and it let him start to heal. Don’t be afraid to experiment and look outside the box.
Personality and size often go hand in hand. Smaller dogs can be stubborn and energetic, but they often don’t have the sheer strength of some of their larger counterparts.
You’ll see many costume-oriented cone alternatives for smaller dogs, like ones that look like a lion’s mane or make your pup’s face look like the center of a flower. These are cute and tempting, but if you know your dog won’t tolerate it, go for a stronger and sturdier option.
Some of the alternatives on this list are intrinsically better-suited to certain medical situations than others. There are a wide variety of reasons why a vet would recommend a cone for your dog. Often, dogs will need to wear them after surgery or to mitigate the damage of licking or chewing on their skin for many reasons.
Certain cone alternatives may not prevent your dog from licking or biting a specific area of its body. Read the reviews for certain alternative cone products to see whether pet owners have had good luck with them in the same situation your dog is facing.
In the long run, more structured cones will always provide a stronger deterrent than softer ones. However, even if your pup needs a harder cone most of the time, try an alternative at night or when you’re with your dog. A more comfortable option can help it relax or sleep better, which is necessary for timely healing.
Often, if your vet has recommended a cone for your dog after a surgery or office visit, they’ll recommend one for purchase on-site. It’s wise to have one on hand for the ride home and to hold your dog over until you can find the best alternative to suit its needs.
Still, even wearing one of the best dog cone alternatives can take some getting used to. Make sure to support your pup and reward it for wearing its cone or cone alternative during its recovery to help your dog get back to its fun-loving and loveable self as quickly as possible.