Can A Dog Sleep With A Cone On? – (Answered By Vet Tech)

can a dog sleep with a cone on

NotABully.org is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.

If you’ve recently had a visit with your veterinarian, your dog might have a new accessory!  Cones are used to help keep dogs from getting their wounds dirty.  Cones are extremely important for wound healing but can come with a variety of other challenges.  Because these cones were designed for dogs, your dog should be able to do more everything with a cone on!  But what about bedtime?

Can a dog sleep with a cone on?

Yes, dogs can and should sleep with cones on!  Cones help keep their wounds clean and make sure they heal faster.  But, it might not be easy for your dog to sleep with their cone on.  You can try different cones or more comfortable bedding to make it easier for your dog to sleep. 

In this article, we’ll talk all about cones; why your dog should wear them, and how to help them get comfortable in them.

Why Do Dogs Need Cones?

So, why do dogs need cones anyways?  Well, they do look silly and cause some serious inconveniences, but cones are an essential aspect of wound healing for dogs.

Cones can be referred to as Elizabethan collars or E-collars.  Oftentimes, you’ll hear the staff at the vet office call them e-collars.   They’re usually large plastic cones that go over a dog’s head.  The intention of these cones is to keep a dog from licking an affected area.

Although there is an old myth that an animal licking its wound is a good thing, it’s just not.  Dog mouths are pretty dirty and their saliva contains tons of bacteria.  When a dog licks their wound, this bacteria can get into the wound and result in irritation or infection.  For most dogs, licking is instinctual, this collar is our best attempt to keep them from doing any licking.

While we couldn’t imagine licking our own wounds, dogs are quick to lick anything gross- from infected ears to goopy eyes and everything in between. Cones are given to patients that have large wounds that can’t be bandaged.  They’re also given to pets that have had surgery and will be an extra layer of protection for the sutures while the skin heals.

How Long Should A Cone Stay On?

How long should cones be used?

It really depends on the wound and your dog!  Smaller injuries and calm dogs can wear their cones for a shorter amount of time, while larger incisions will need a longer length of time for healing.   A cone should stay on until the concern is completely resolved- even when your dog is alone or unsupervised.

Always follow the advice of your veterinarian.  Usually, a cone is recommended for 10-14 days of use.  If you feel like the cone should come off earlier than planned, make sure to check in with them before removing it.

While your dog is “prescribed” an e-collar, they need to wear it 24 hours a day/7 day a week.  Taking off your dog’s cone can lead to wound complications and can make the adjustment more difficult for your dog.

I’m sure if this is your first time using a cone for your dog, you have a lot of questions! Is it safe for dogs to sleep with a cone?  Do you leave a dog cone on all night?  Can my dog even sleep with a cone on?

Here are our answers below!

Can Dogs Sleep With Cones On?

Yes, dogs can sleep with cones on!  It’s perfectly safe for them and they actually need to sleep with their cone on.  Cones are made for dogs.  They’re made for dogs to eat, play, drink and sleep in.

When your dog sleeps with a cone on its head, it might feel a little strange at first, but it’ll be able to fall asleep eventually.  We’ll share some tips below if your pup is having trouble sleeping with a cone.  The most important thing is that you don’t remove the cone at night!

Why Your Dog Should Sleep With a Cone On

So, why shouldn’t you let your dog get some quality sleep?

If you remove an e-collar at night, you are risking a lot!  At night, your dog would have free access to its wound site.  They might lick it and cause it to be infected.  Even worse, your dog might scratch or bite at its sutures resulting in the need for a second surgery.  Plus, if your dog doesn’t get used to its cone it will inevitably make the healing process longer and harder.

As tempting as it is, there are good reasons to leave your pup’s cone on while they sleep.

5 Ways To Help Dogs Sleep With A Cone

So, how can you help your dog sleep with the cone?

If you’re lucky, your dog won’t mind the plastic and will sleep almost normally!  But, this won’t be the case for many dogs.  As much as an e-collar is designed for a dog to wear, it still isn’t perfect.  These cones can be uncomfortable, sized incorrectly, and can just make it difficult to fall asleep.

So whether your dog won’t lay down with the cone on, or your dog can’t sleep with a cone, we’ll talk about ways to fix that now.

1. Try Making A Comfier Bed

The first thing that you can do for your dog is to give them a comfier area to sleep in while the cone is in town.

You’ll notice that your dog will usually choose to sleep in the most comfortable spot for them!  And this spot can change.  Dogs sometimes sleep in different rooms in the house depending on the weather, noise, and overall comfort.  This cone will affect what your dogs think is and isn’t comfortable a the moment.

If they usually sleep in a small bed that they curl up into, they just might not fit into it right now.  Obviously, this would be a big deterrence to them getting good sleep!  Now you don’t need to go off and buy a completely new dog bed.

What we recommend is making a new, larger sleeping space for your dog while they have the cone on.  If they’re in a crate, you might need to get a bigger crate while they have a cone.  If they sleep on the floor, try throwing down a bunch of big comfy blankets for them to sleep on.  This will give them room to spread out with the cone.  If they can stretch out, you’ll be sure that they aren’t getting poked or pinched by the pesky e-collar!

2. Make The Material Of The Cone Softer

Another thing you can do to make the cone comfier for your dog is to make the plastic material a bit softer.

Sometimes, cones can be super rigid and stiff.  Naturally, this doesn’t make for the best sleeping arrangements.  What you can do to your dog’s plastic cone is to work the material a little bit.  Make sure your dog is being supervised and isn’t licking its wound.  Then, you can remove the cone for a moment.  Take the cone in your hands and bend and twist the plastic.  This will help wear the material down and hopefully make it a little more flexible.

3. Pad The Cone

Something else that might bother your dog about the cone is the edge of it.

See, plastic cones aren’t sharp but they’re not soft either.  The edges of them are pretty blunt.  The edge that sits on your dog’s neck could get heavy and uncomfortable.  We mentioned pinching above and padding the inside edge of the cone will help reduce any chances of this.

Padding can be made at home with whatever materials you have around the house.  You can either attach the padding directly to the cone or make your dog a sort of scarf.  A few things to keep in mind:

If you do pad the cone itself, pay attention to how you secure the padding.  Remember that the cone is close to your dog’s face so you won’t want to use any toxic glues or sharp staples.  If you choose to pad your dog’s neck itself, you can tie some old material around their neck, under the cone, just to make everything a little better.

4. Use The Two Finger Rule For Fit

Getting the right fit for a cone is super important!

It’s sort of a Goldilocks situation.  If a cone is too big, your dog won’t be able to eat and walk around.  If a cone is too small, your dog will probably be able to reach and lick its wound site.  This is true for both the length of the cone and the tightness around the neck.

Obviously, a cone needs to be tight to stay on, however, if a cone is too tight, your dog wont be comfortable doing things like bending down to drink water, or sleeping!  I’ll be honest, at the vet clinic, they might not get the cone size right the first time!

Usually, when your dog is at the vet getting a cone, they’re waking up from sedation after surgery or a procedure.  Your dog’s posture could be different than normal and so you might not get a great fit!  That’s where the two-finger rule comes in.

You’ll want to make sure that wherever the cone is attached to your dog you can fit at least 2 (maximum of three) fingers beneath.  Whether you’re using gauze or a collar to secure the cone, you have to make sure it fits properly.  Otherwise, your dog won’t want to rest or even lie down at all.   Here is a quick 40-second video showing how to put an e-collar on and how to make sure the fit is right on your furry friend’s neck.

5. Don’t Give In

Whatever you do, however much your dog doesn’t want to sleep, don’t give in.

The best way to help your dog get used to a cone is to keep them in it 24/7.  Dogs are very adaptable creatures.  If you’ve ever moved with pets, you probably realize how quickly dogs accept change.  While cats can take weeks or months to settle in, many dogs will start to feel at home within about 24 hours.

They’re also creatures of habit!

Habits can explain many behaviors in dogs like eating late at night or sleeping in their crate even when they don’t have to.  If you make the cone a habit, it’ll feel less stressful to your pup.

Give your dog time to get used to the cone.  It might feel very dramatic the first day.  But, it’s only a temporary measure for a very short time!  If you take the cone off at night not only are you putting your dog’s health at risk, but you’re also letting them get used to the idea that they won’t need to sleep with the cone on.

Try A Different Kind Of Cone

If nothing is working with your traditional cone, and your dog just won’t sleep, you can try an alternative type of cone.

There are so many different kinds of cones available for purchase.  All you have to do is type in “dog e-collar” and you’ll see tons of innovative designs!  While I’m all for comfort, these types of cones won’t be enough for all types of dogs.  Here are the two make kinds of cone alternatives and some pros and cons of each type.

1. Soft E-collars

Soft e-collars are pretty much exactly what they sound like!  Soft e-collars are usually made from a foam-like material and lined with waterproof nylon.  These cones are comfier for dogs who aren’t active and spend a lot of the day laying around.

The downside of these cones is that they’re heavier, so they won’t be a great choice for a smaller dog, who can’t bear the weight on their little necks.  Soft e-collars are reusable, and sometimes your vet can send you home with one for a small rental fee.

If you do think you might need a soft cone, make sure and check with your vet.  The only thing worse than your dog not being able to sleep is your dog being able to reach and lick its wounds.

2. Inflatable E-collars

Inflatable e-collars look really similar to the neck pillow you wear when you fly.

These collars are probably the comfiest alternative choice and usually do a great job keeping your dog’s face away from their injury.  These collars are light and protective.  The downside of these e-collars is that dogs with longer necks will be able to easily reach around them.  Again, you’ll need to check in with your vet before making any decisions to change your pup’s e-collar.

How To Maintain Your Dog’s Cone

Hopefully, you’ve heard enough tips and tricks that you feel confident your dog will be able to sleep soundly tonight with an e-collar on.

One important thing that people don’t always discuss is cone maintenance!  Since this cone will be on your dog for about 2 weeks, you’ll need to make sure it stays in perfect condition!

Your dog is probably going to bump into some things with their cone.  If they do, check it a few times a day for cracks or breaks.  Sharp pieces of plastic could cause injury to your pup.  Additionally, you’ll want to keep an eye on how dirty the cone gets!

If your dog is a messy eater or drools a lot, you’ll need to clean the cone at least once a day.  Traditional cones can be wiped down with a soapy towel, dried, and then be put back on immediately.  For cone alternatives, you might need to wash them a little bit more thoroughly.

Final Thoughts

Your dog can and should sleep with a cone on!  Although it might be a struggle for some dogs, they will get used to it eventually!  Basically, you’ll need to make them as comfortable as possible and even consider trying a cone alternative.  Good luck, and remember this cone won’t be on your dog forever!