More patients go home with an E-collar than any medication. Globally, it is among the top prescribed post-surgery products, yet many clients get annoyed by them or feel sorry for their pets and, after a few days, remove them. Clients may then leave the collar off altogether and the wound or hot spot does not heal enough.
Removing their E-collar too soon is not safe for patients. The good news is there are ways to reduce clients becoming annoyed and noncompliant. This is because E-collars have evolved since their invention in 1964 for more comfort, greater compliance, and more choices than ever. Additional good news: costs have stayed low, too.
The first E-collar attempts
An animal lover, tinkerer, and salesman named Ed Schilling invented one of the first E-collars in 1964, fashioning it out of an inner tube. It was a donut-style collar and it worked; his dog could not get around it. Schilling got some people interested and decided to craft a version 2.0—made from large plastic sheets in a satellite style as compared to the cone styles of today. He found it very effective, and today it is known as the Saf-T-Shield.
Schilling built his direct-to-veterinary business in Southern California throughout the 1960s (his company, EJAY, is now KVP International)—and the innovation of collars continued.
In 2009, the industry had a handful of collar types available. However, the technicians who work with animals all day, veterinarians, and certainly the pet owners demanded a little bit more comfort.
Manufacturers started evaluating the plastic they were using. They needed to make sure it would be strong enough to avoid cracking or breaking, but also soft enough to be comfortable. This led to padding on the outside, along with further research to improve comfort even more.
Consumer research revealed donut-style collars were easy for dogs to wiggle out of. It led to the scratch-and bite-resistant Kong Cloud cushioned inflatable and the Air-O, a pillowy inflatable.
Additional research and development led to more changes, with Velcro closures or added notches around the neck opening so it was circular instead of teardrop shaped. This meant no dog could wiggle out, regardless of muzzle size. Making the collar easier for technicians to put on led to a collar version with multiple strips of Velcro so it was truly the easiest to put on.
There remained, still, another problem to solve. When animals arrived home, they were running into owners’ shins and walls, and taking chips out of both. This problem led to scalloped edges that more evenly distributed force. Small tweaks, in addition to completely new products, meant patients stay away from sensitive areas so they can heal.
More recently, tests have been conducted around decibel levels and sound amplification. One only needs to think of why bullhorns are shaped like cones to realize recovering pets do not need an echo chamber around their heads.
Dogs have excellent hearing to begin with, so adding a cone shaped like a bullhorn creates a booming, amplified sound, in addition to the pet being disoriented and uncomfortable. This is why inflatables make a difference—they do not amplify sound the way plastic cones do.
More recent innovations include alternative materials for soft collars, and an easy feed opening, so owners never have to take the collar off.
E-collars today: More choices, more compliance
Fast-forward to today and there are more choices than ever, from house brand to name brand, and from mouse size to mastiff size. Some are designed to save costs, and others, closet space. Clients are willing to spend a little extra for more comfortable collars, so practices can stock more options and let clients select from a few choices. It means clients will not head to a pet store to spend $40 or more on what they perceive to be a better collar. Give them the right one to begin with. Greater compliance will follow.
George Henriques is president of the companion animal division of Patterson Veterinary, where he oversees a complete line of veterinary products with more than 40 varieties of E-collars, including their private label line. He has worked in the veterinary industry for more than 20 years.