Can You Leave A Dog Alone With A Cone On? (Answered By Vet Tech)

dog wearing a cone for 24 hours straight

So, you’ve come home after a trip to the veterinarian and your dog has a cone.  Although they might not be the most elegant accessories, dogs need to wear cones for a variety of reasons!  Unfortunately, cones don’t come with instructions and some dogs handle them better than others.  After an hour or two with your dog, you might have a lot of questions like;

Can you leave a dog alone with a cone on?

It really depends.  Some dogs do well with cones and can be left alone for short periods of time with them on.  Other dogs will need constant supervision and you might need to take time off of work or find a dog sitter to keep an eye on your pup while they’re recovering.

Every dog’s situation and attitude toward the cone are different.  In this article, we’ll discuss the risks of leaving your dog alone with a cone.  We’ll also talk about some ways to make your furry friend more comfortable with a cone.  First, let’s discuss why it’s so important that your dog keeps their cone on!

What (Exactly) Are Cones And When Do Dogs Need Them?

Even though your dog looks ridiculous with a cone on, they’re no laughing matter!  Cones prevent your dog from further injuring themselves or from needing additional surgical procedures.

Cones are technically called Elizabethan collars or e-collars and are named after a fluffy neck accessory worn in Elizabethan times.  Cones are typically large plastic sheets that form a cone around a dog’s head.  These cones are usually see-through and durable.  Cones are secured with a collar of a piece of stretchy fabric.

E-collars are typically prescribed to post-operative patients or dogs that have wounds.  The goal of a cone is to keep a dog’s mouth away from its wound site.  Dogs tend to like and bite at wounds and sometimes end up making them worse.  Since dogs like to lick blood from any source, they’ll have a hard time leaving their injuries alone.  By using a cone, you can ensure that the wound doesn’t become irritated or infected from your dog’s mouth!

How Long Should A Dog Wear A Cone For?

E-collars are something that a veterinarian will prescribe to a patient.  When a dog is “prescribed” a cone, they need to wear it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The length of time that a dog wears a cone depends on both the wounds and the dog.  A small clean surgical wound won’t need as long to heal as a large wound.  As soon as the area of concern is managed, your dog no longer needs to wear a cone.

In general, cones are advised for 10-14 days.  If something heals faster than expected, you can always check with your vet to see if it’s okay to take the cone off early.  On the other hand, if your dog’s wound still seems to be healing after a set amount of time, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion before removing the cone.

Taking an e-collar off early could end up causing more damage to the wound and you might end up needing to keep the cone on for even longer after that,

Can A Dog Wear A Cone Unsupervised?

So, if a dog needs to wear a cone 24/7 while they have it, can you leave them alone with one on?

The answer isn’t black and white.

The amount of time that you can leave your dog unsupervised with a cone depends on your dog and how they’re handling the cone treatment.  I’ll give you a quick example.  At an animal shelter where I work, some of the animals need cones after surgery.  Because we’re a shelter, these animals are often left alone and unsupervised overnight.  While there are risks to leaving an animal alone with a cone on, there are also risks to taking the cone off.

If a dog is relaxed, sedated, and calm, it can be left alone for stretches of time with an e-collar on.  These dogs will tend to stay in one place and actually become a little depressed with the cone on.

On the other hand, if a dog is extra crazy and active with a cone on, it can’t really be left alone.  Plus, if your dog keeps trying to remove the cone, they’ll need constant supervision to make sure they don’t remove it and mess with the wound area.

So, I can’t give you a yes or no answer on whether it’s okay to leave a dog alone with a cone.  To make the best decision for you and your furry friend, we’ll go over the risks of leaving your dog alone with a cone now.

Risks Of Leaving Your Dog Along With A Cone On

When a dog has a cone, there’s a reason.  You need to keep a cone on to protect your dog from infecting or irritating or even reopening its own wound.   Taking the cone off is non-negotiable.  However, if you need to leave to run errands or to go to work, you’ll want to consider these risks first.  Then you can decide whether you need to find someone to watch your dog while you’re out.

They Might Remove The Cone

One of the worst things that can happen when a dog is left unsupervised with a cone on is that they might remove it.

When your dog removes its own cone it has free access to its injury.  Dogs don’t have the same abilities to reason and think logically that we as humans have.  When your dog gets an itch, they’ll scratch it, even if it means that they cause themselves to bleed.  When we have a cut that itches, we can usually reason with ourselves.  We can tell our bodies not to scratch the wound even though it would feel nice.

Dogs aren’t the same.

Many dogs will bite and lick surgical sites if they can.  They don’t think about how biting and licking a wound could make it worse.  They’re just doing what feels natural to them.

If you leave your dog alone and they do happen to get their collar off, you’ll want to check their wound ASAP.  If you see any fresh blood, make sure to call your veterinarian and try to get the cone back on if you can.

They Could Injure Themselves

Another reason why it’s a little sketchy to leave a dog alone with a cone on is that they could injure themselves.

Sedate and docile dogs probably won’t do much when they have a cone on.  But, not all dogs are docile or sedated.  Some dogs will throw their head from side to side when they have a cone on.  They also might run like normal and bash into something like a wall since the cone usually extends out further than their head.  In the worst cases, a dog might start to panic and really hurt itself while trying to remove a cone.  Or your dog could get its cone head stuck in a small area that it can’t get out of!

They Might Bump Into Things Around The House

If you have an active dog and you leave them alone with a cone on, expect to find some things knocked over!

Pets have a hard time understanding that when they have a cone on, their heads are much wider.  They might knock over floor lamps, side tables, and anything else you can think of that’s dog height.  We’ll talk about ways to lessen this particular risk below.  Until then, here’s a video of some pets acting wild while wearing a cone.

You can see how things like furniture might get knocked over by an unsupervised pup.

They Might Not Be Able To Eat Or Drink

The last thing you might notice when your dog wears a cone is that it can’t eat or drink very well.

If your pooch just can’t figure out how to eat and drink with a cone on, you can remove it during meal times.  But, if you have to leave the house, you don’t want your pet to go for hours without drinking any water.  With a cone, you can try offering food and water in taller and deeper bowls.  This allows your pup room to get its mouth into the bowl without the cone slamming into the ground first.

If you’re really concerned about your cone dog going without water while you’re gone, you can always ask someone to come over and watch them.

Can A Dog Sleep With A Cone On?

If a dog can’t always be left unsupervised with a cone, what are you supposed to do when it’s time for bed?

You might have guessed but even at night dogs need to sleep with their cones on.  Dogs might need cones even more at night.  If a wound they have hurts or itches, they might subconsciously try to do something to it while they’re sleeping.  You can try having your dog sleep in your room overnight so they’re not really left without supervision.

If you’re worried that your dog isn’t sleeping with their cone on, we can help you.  Get some of our best tips and tricks for getting your dog to sleep in an e-collar by reading our article about it here.

If your dog normally sleeps in their crate, it’ll probably want to do so even with a cone on since they’re creatures of habit.  This is totally fine, just make sure your pet has enough room to turn around in the crate with the cone on.  And in this particular situation, don’t leave them alone just in case they get stuck!

Ways To Make The Cone Easier On Your Pet

If your pet is erring on the side of an “active” cone dog, you’re probably not going to be able to leave them with a cone on.  But, over the next couple of weeks, you can try to make them more comfortable in their current medical situation.

There are a few things you can easily do to give your dog and its cone the best chances of success.

Try A Cone Alternative

While you might not find these at your veterinarian, there are plenty of cone alternatives to try out!  Most of these cone alternatives can be ordered on amazon and should arrive in a day or two.

Soft E-collars

Soft e-collars are just what they sound like.  Instead of being tough plastic structures, these cones are soft and squishy.  They still do a great job at keeping your dog’s head away from their wound but won’t cause them as much trouble when inevitably they run into things!

Inflatable E-Collars

Inflatable e-collars look a lot like what you wear around your neck on a plane to sleep.  These collars are blown up and keep your dog’s head away from their sides very well.  The plus side of these collars is that they can be washed and cleaned very easily.  The downside is that they might not be the best at keeping wounds on the back end safe and clean.

Surgery Suits

Surgery suits are sleek onesies that you can get for your dog after a procedure.  These body suits cover a lot of your dog’s skin and don’t even give them a chance to lick at a wound.  But, if your dog is rough the might bite or scratch through a suit like this and make it useless.

Try It Out Before Surgery

One great thing you can do to make your pup more comfortable with a cone is to introduce it before surgery.

You can order one yourself or ask your veterinarian for one ahead of time.

Try putting the cone on your dog for short periods of time and see how they react.  Make sure to reinforce the cone with plenty of treats and toys while they’re wearing it.  If you do a trial run ahead of time you’ll also be more prepared for what kind of dog you’re going to have while the cone is needed.  If you find that your dog doesn’t tolerate the cone well, you can let your vet know and see if they want to prescribe any extra medication.

Create A Safe Space For Them

The last thing you can do to make unsupervised cone time safer for your dog is to prepare an area for them.  A kennel or a small room is ideal because your dog won’t have much room to run around.  If you remove any obstacle that could hurt them or that they could knock over, you should be able to leave them alone for short periods of time.

Final Thoughts

The final decision to leave your dog alone with a cone on is totally up to you and your vet.  You should be able to use your judgment and decide if it will do more harm than good to leave your pup unsupervised.

Just in case, it’s always a good idea to have a plan in place in case you need to stay home with your dog.  Just remember, the worst thing you can do is take your dog’s cone off too early, so do everything you can to avoid making that choice!

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