An e-collar is a veterinary medical device which has a number of uses in the treatment of animals, particularly after surgery. It consists of a cone of stiff material which is worn around the neck, preventing an animal from biting or licking at the rest of its body. Animals in e-collars tend to look rather woeful, but the device is often medically necessary. If your animal is wearing an e-collar, resist soulful looks and leave the collar on until the veterinarian says it is OK to take it off.
The “E” in e-collar stands for “Elizabethan.” The collars are named for the very stiff starched ruffs which were worn by high ranking members of Elizabethan society. Often, these ruffs were so large and stiff that the wearer had difficulty turning his or her head, and visibility could be severely infringed as well. At some point, veterinarians apparently realized that the ornamental ruffs also had a potential practical use.
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One of the most common reasons for a pet to wear an e-collar is because he or she is recovering from surgery. Many animals bite or lick at their surgery sites, potentially causing an infection or tearing stitches out. The e-collar prevents this behavior, promoting a rapid and healthy recovery. It is especially important in the case of an animal with stitches, since torn stitches can be difficult to repair.
Some veterinarians also use an e-collar in the treatment of dermatitis and hot spots on the skin. Severe dermatitis can be accompanied with extreme pain and itching, and many animals instinctively bite or snap at the area in the hopes of getting rid of the pain. This can cause the condition to get worse, and it is also possible for an animal to injure itself very severely.
The stiff construction of an e-collar can make it difficult for an animal to eat or drink if it is not cut down to size. Most vets will fit an e-collar in the office, trimming it as needed. Some animals will refuse to eat or drink with the collar on, in which case a veterinarian may recommend that the collar be taken off for feedings. Some veterinarians also offer a soft e-collar alternative, which serves the same function while being more comfortable to wear.
While numerous companies manufacture e-collars, it is also possible to make one at home. This can be useful in an emergency situation, when a veterinarian is not available and an animal needs to be restrained from biting or licking. You can cut out a cardboard or plastic container to form a conical section, and then attach it to your pet's collar. Take care to trim the e-collar down, so that the pet's nose can stick out, and make sure that there are no protruding edges on which the pet could hurt itself. Also confirm that the e-collar is not too tight, by sliding your fingers between the collar and the pet's neck.