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 a sore or itchy spot. But very little research has been done to assess the cone’s impact on animal welfare.
Now a new study by researchers in the Sydney School of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney has found the cone, or the ‘Elizabethan collar’ as it’s known in vet circles, does indeed impact on an animal’s quality of life—owners, too.
The study—published in Animals—surveyed owners about the collar’s impact on their pet’s sleep, eating, drinking, exercise, interactions with other animals and overall quality of life.
Owners reported the collar interferes with drinking and playing and can cause injuries or irritation to the animal. It can also cause injuries to their owners and damage to property.
“Elizabethan collars are used to prevent self-trauma, especially after surgery, so they do play an important role,” said study supervisor Dr Anne Fawcett.
“But we also learned that some animals suffer from misadventure, injury or irritation due to the collars themselves. Other casualties included furniture, buildings and the legs of owners when Elizabethan-collar wearing owners ran into them.”
A global online survey, aimed at owners whose pets wore an Elizabethan collar during the past 12 months, was used to investigate the impact that these collars had on their animal’s quality of life. Most of the respondents were from Australia, with others coming from the UK, USA, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland and Sweden.
The majority of the 434 respondents reported a worse quality of life score when their companion animal was wearing the collar, significantly so when the Elizabethan collar irritated their pet or impacted on their ability to drink or play. Many owners were reluctant to keep the collar on due to changes in the animal’s behaviour or mental health.
“Our study found that Elizabethan collars had the potential to cause distress in animals, which in turn caused distress to owners,” Dr Fawcett said.
This original version of this story first appeared on the University of Sydney website.