5 Best Pet Recovery Collars - Sept. 2023 - BestReviews (2023)

One of the most important post-op instructions for pet owners is to make sure the affected area remains clean and dry during the recovery period. This can be easier said than done, however, because many cats and dogs instinctively want to lick and scratch a wound. That’s why veterinarians highly recommend the use of a pet recovery collar to keep the animal from reaching the incision site.

Allowing a pet to lick or scratch a healing incision can lead to a much longer recovery time and secondary infections. Pet recovery collars, also known as Elizabethan collars, lampshades, or “cones of shame,” allow the recovering animal to still eat, drink, play, and sleep. It just can’t access the affected area.

Despite the “cone of shame” moniker, the temporary use of a pet recovery collar doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience for owners or pets. It’s important to know which type is best for your pet’s situation and how to find the correct fit.

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Pet recovery collars can amplify ambient noises or limit a pet’s field of vision, which can be stressful for the animal.

Key considerations

Why use a pet recovery collar?

Cats and dogs have a strong urge to lick off an unpleasant medication, chew on stitches, or scratch inflamed skin, and owners can’t monitor their pets 24 hours a day. A pet recovery collar creates a physical (and in some ways psychological) barrier that addresses the issue without causing the animal undue stress. While wearing a properly fitted recovery collar, the pet can't reach the affected area and should eventually stop trying. Not using the collar can lead to ineffective medications, torn stitches, and opportunistic infections.

Pet recovery collars fit much like traditional dog or cat collars: tight enough to remain securely in place but loose enough not to restrict breathing, swallowing, eating, or drinking. The use of a pet recovery collar is meant to be temporary, and many cats and dogs adjust to it within a few hours.


The first pet recovery collars were made of a fairly hard form of plastic that could be fashioned into a cone, but it wasn't designed for long-term comfort. The rigid plastic cone has largely been replaced by softer forms of plastic, fabric, and inflatable vinyl.

Plastic collars are flexible enough to allow the pet to sleep or eat comfortably but still provide a barrier between the pet and the affected area.

Fabric is used to line contact points in plastic collars, or the entire collar can be made of it for comfort. Fabric recovery collars don’t provide as much rigidity as the traditional plastic cones, but they’re generally more comfortable for the pet and don’t affect its hearing or field of vision.

Inflatable vinyl pet recovery collars have a comfortablesoft shell that still keeps the pet’s head and neck in a fixed position to discourage biting and licking.


One common issue with pet recovery collars is discomfort. This isn't a natural situation for an animal, and it might feel the collar is too restrictive or heavy. The design can also affect the pet’s mobility or access to food and water. When looking for a pet recovery collar, be prepared to replace or modify a model that your pet clearly finds uncomfortable. The collar from the veterinarian’s office might be effective, but it isn’t always the best fit.


You also need to consider how the recovery collar can be cleaned. Your pet could be wearing it for several weeks, and you need to keep it clean and in good working order. Some fabric collars can be machine washed and dried, but others require hand-washing and air-drying. A plastic cone can become unsanitary over time, so you’ll need to remove the collar and clean it thoroughly with hot water and mild soap.

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Did You Know?

Your pet might need to wear a recovery collar for 10 to 14 days after surgery.





A pet recovery collar needs to fit precisely on the pet’s neck and head for maximum benefit. A collar that’s too tight can restrict breathing and swallowing, while a collar that's too loose can be removed easily by the animal, defeating its purpose.

One-size-fits-all: Some manufacturers offer recovery collars that are essentially one-size-fits-all, allowing owners to wrap the collar around the pet’s neck at the correct circumference. These collars tend to use hook-and-loop closures or adjustable leash-style clasps. The cone can be trimmed to the ideal length, which is just past the animal’s snout. If the cone is too long, it could affect the animal’s ability to eat and drink. If the collar is too short, the pet might be able to reach the affected area.

Sized: Other pet recovery collars are sold in sizes, typically small, medium, and large. The size is based on the average circumference of a dog or cat’s neck, so you might need to measure your pet to determine this number. Closures can be snaps or quick-release collar attachments. The length of the cone is suited to average dimensions, so you might need to modify the length to fit your pet too.


While a standard cone or plastic recovery collar is more functional than aesthetic, many manufacturers offer fabric or inflatable vinyl collars with appealing prints and designs. For example, inflatable collars come in a wide range of colors, and some also have pet-inspired prints. Some plastic cones include colored fabric to protect exposed edges and seams.

Fabric recovery collars offer the most color and print options. Some are designed to resemble a flower, doughnut, or lion’s mane. Bold graphics like stripes, plaids, and camouflage are also popular.


If a pet recovery cone or collar isn't going to work for your pet’s situation, there are some alternatives worth considering. Consult your veterinarian for additional advice.

Medication: Some pets might benefit from the use of an anesthetic spray or medication that reduces the urge to lick or scratch the affected area. Anti-anxiety medication or aromatherapy might also calm a pet during the recovery period.

Bandage: A sterile fabric bandage fastened with medical tape can also discourage unwanted behavior as the pet recovers.

Bodysuit: Some owners might consider investing in a special bodysuit that fits comfortably over the pet.

It can take at least 24 hours for a pet to become accustomed to wearing a recovery collar.




Inexpensive: Veterinarians often provide a basic recovery collar as part of the post-surgery treatment, but you can also find basic models on store shelves for $10 or less. These collars and cones tend to be made of soft plastic or inflatable vinyl and may have a few fabric elements for improved comfort. Customization might be limited, however.

Mid-range: Pet recovery collars in the $10 to $25 range tend to fit better, be more durable, and incorporate some design elements. Owners are more likely to find all-fabric collars at this price point, along with more size options.

Expensive: Most of the pet recovery collars that cost $30 or more are fabric reinforced with some plastic elements and offer more in the way of colors and prints. You might want to invest in a more expensive recovery collar because of its durability and ease of use.

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Did You Know?

Some dogs and cats show signs of depression after several days of wearing a recovery collar.




  • Desensitize your pet before a medical procedure. You can help your dog or cat acclimate to a pet recovery cone by practicing with it a few days before the surgery. This can help your pet get accustomed to the collar without the additional post-op stress.
  • Cone-proof your pet’s environment. Make sure to keep your recovering pet in a confined space that’s free of obstacles.
  • Help your recovering pet eat and drink more easily. If your pet is having difficulty eating or drinking, modify the delivery system. Some pets might benefit from elevated bowls for food and water, while others might need a shallower bowl with smaller portions.
  • Maintain regular interaction as much as possible. A pet recovering from a medical procedure can become stressed or depressed, so you need to keep it mentally engaged. Praise, rewards for good behavior, and reasonable playtime are all recommended.
  • Observe your pet for any signs of distress. Lack of sleep, aggressive scratching, irritability, and a change in appetite are all behaviors to watch for. A veterinarian might prescribe pain relievers or sleep aids to aid in your pet’s recovery.

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Pet recovery collars are also called Elizabethan collars. The first Elizabethan recovery collars were patented in the United States in the 1950s.


Q. Can I leave my dog unsupervised while he’s wearing a recovery collar?

A. A recovering pet might appreciate some private time as it adjusts to the realities of wearing a recovery cone, but it shouldn’t remain unsupervised for long periods of time. Owners should plan on taking the dog on trips outside the home or employing a responsible dog sitter if they need to leave the pet unattended.

Q. Is the recovery cone hurting my pet?

A. A properly fitting recovery cone shouldn’t be painful to wear, but some pets find it uncomfortable. Preventing a pet from licking sutures, hot spots, or injuries is a greater health benefit than temporary discomfort caused by the collar. If a recovering pet is clearly in distress, however, you might need to make some modifications or switch to a different type of collar.

Q. My pet can't eat or drink while wearing its recovery collar. Is it safe for me to remove it temporarily?

A. In theory, a properly fitting recovery collar should allow the animal to eat and drink normally, but that isn’t always the case in practice. You might be able to remove the collar temporarily during regular feeding times, but you should discourage any licking or scratching of the wound and replace the collar promptly after your pet has finished eating and drinking.

Q. Are there safe alternatives to a pet recovery collar if I absolutely can't get my pet to wear one?

A. Some pet owners find that fitting a layer of clothing, such as a clean T-shirt, over their pet can work as a temporary alternative to an uncomfortable plastic recovery cone. There are also fitted bodysuits for petsthat discourage licking and scratching. It could also be a matter of finding a type of recovery collar that better fits your pet or is made of a softer material than the one you’re using.


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