Softer Alternatives To Traditional E-collars Abound

Traditional e-collars will be have an softer option soon.

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Consumer demand for people-friendly surgical recovery collars is changing the way veterinarians look at their supply and sales, according to several e-collar manufacturers and suppliers. 

“Consumers are saying, ‘Oh, my poor baby, I don’t want to put a satellite dish on him. And I don’t want my coffee table or my walls banged up,’” says Gabe Martinez, business manager for KVP International, manufacturer of recovery collars and other surgical supplies. “So veterinarians needed something not only to protect animals but keep owners happy.”

Irwindale, Ca.-based KVP International manufactures a variety of recovery collars.

“Soft e-collars look cool and they are people-friendly,” says Martinez, adding that it’s a major reason soft e-collars are becoming so popular.

Some of the latest soft collars don’t limit pets’ peripheral vision, ability to eat, drink or sleep, or cause damage to walls and furniture.

“Rigid collars are definitely not animal-friendly,” says Frank Banesse, southeast regional training manager for MWI Veterinary Products of Meridian, Idaho. “Soft e-collars offer a better design and give animals a better life during their recovery.”

Peter Kross, DVM, owner of Rivergate Veterinary Clinic in New York City,  stocks collars of all brands and sizes because “different situations call for different collars.”

He prefers lightweight soft e-collars when pets are crated because their size and flexibility makes animals more comfortable. He also may use two collars at once, a soft e-collar and a cervical collar, for instance, depending on the location of the incision or the determination of the animal to bite, chew or lick the wound.

“Keeping pets calmer and happier,” says Deirdre Moy, president of BiteNot Inc. of San Francisco, “leads to greater client compliance and faster healing.”

Her alternative recovery collar fits close to the neck and allows complete peripheral vision, says Moy. It protects wounds and sutures on the torso and upper limbs. “They can be used for cervical stabilization and will protect urinary catheters on cats,” she says.

Linda Markfield, president of All Four Paws of Los Angeles, points out that large dogs in particular can become aggravated wearing a cone.

“They get stuck in doorways, can’t reach their food or water, and the noise created every time the cone hits something gets them worked up and anxious,” she says. “A soft e-collar’s opaque, foam-backed nylon acts like blinders on horse. If they don’t see something, it doesn’t exist. Therefore, they don’t get anxious or agitated.

“And if they are calm,” she says, “their owners will be less likely to take off the cone, which can lead to re-injury.”

Dr. Kross agrees that e-collars help the owner, too. “People don’t like to see their pets uncomfortable, which is often the case with a rigid collar,” he says. “Aside from furniture damage, having a pet rub a rigid collar on a human can hurt. And many pets sleep with their owners. A soft e-collar makes both more comfortable.”

New developments in polymer technology, Martinez says, have made some plastic e-collars so pliable and lightweight a pet hardly notices it–a boon for cats. Others are still lightweight but made of strong material with heavy-duty snaps that hold up to a lot of abuse, say from large dogs.

Soft e-collars are not recommended for use on animals with facial, ear or eye wounds, Martinez says.

Albert Benbasat, president of TrimLine Manufacturing of Boca Raton, Fla., says soft e-collars’ greatest advantage is that the veterinarian or veterinary technician can work with a pet that is not fighting the collar.

“If the animal is comfortable, the doctor and the veterinary technician can attend to it more easily,” he says.

Lighter weight collars are easier on the pet’s neck and spine, Benbasat says. They may be worn traditionally, with the cone opening at the animal’s face, or inverted to cover the shoulders.

“Cats especially appreciate the inverted design,” he says.

Doughnut-shaped inflatable collars permit dogs to maintain side-to-side vision.

“The inflatable collar weighs less than a street collar,” says Marcy Colangelo, president of Headroom Limited Inc. in Weston, Fla., manufacturer of the BooBooLoon inflatable collar. “It stays straight out from the neck rather than being cone-shaped.”

When dogs or cats are wearing an inflatable collar, they can’t get at it with their mouths, she says. The collar sits on their shoulders, though some cats will try to walk backwards to get out of it.

What about an errant claw?

“If it does get a puncture, a piece of cellophane tape makes the repair,” Colangelo says. “The collar can be patched as often as needed.”

Erik Sethre, marketing director of Jorgensen Laboratories in Loveland, Colo., notes that veterinarians prefer plastic cone collars for certain cases. 

“Sometimes, we have to use a rigid collar,” Rivergate’s Kross says, “if the pet is determined to get at the wound.”

Andrea Bulau, AHT, technical support for Jorgensen, agrees.

“Which collar is more appropriate depends on where the affected area is,” she says. 

Traditionally, many veterinarians are reluctant to stock supplies and some tell owners to pick up a recovery collar at a pet-supply store. Veterinarians should reconsider stocking e-collar alternatives, says Moy, adding that choosing the best collar for a particular situation and the correct size are best left to the veterinary professional.

Some animals still won’t leave their wounds alone, even with an e-collar. Products such as StopLik and LikShield deterrent aids and Nurtured Pets’ AntiLickStrip Prevent provide an alternative for pets that insist on bothering bandaged surgical sites.

Powered by small electric cells similar to watch batteries, “StopLik wraps around a bandaged leg or torso and delivers a mild electric stimulus to the tongue when the pet licks it,” says Jerry Jones, MAI Animal Health sales and marketing manager.

“LikShield, manufactured with an adhesive that is FDA-approved for human use, may be applied directly to a shaved area of skin on an animal,” Jones says. “Available in a 6” x 9” patch, the LikShield offers a wider area of coverage than StopLik. It may be trimmed to fit around most any surgical incision, so the wound breathes and heals faster while still prohibiting the pet from licking.”

“The AntiLick Strip Prevent, for dogs or cats as well as equines, has medical-grade adhesive backing on one side and all-natural active ingredients such as cayenne pepper, oregano and lemon powder on the other that effectively deliver powerful deterrents to the animals’ nose when smelled and tongue when licked,” says Josh Weirich, national sales manager of Nurtured Pets. Bandages are available through distributors for in-clinic use or prepackaged for retail sales.

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