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Dog Cones: How Long Should Your Dog Wear One?

By Aviram K.
May 27, 2021
6 min read
Dog Cones: How Long Should Your Dog Wear One?
✏️ This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.
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The dunce cap. The doggy lampshade. The cone of shame.

You’ve heard of it and seen it on other dogs, but now it’s come time for your dog to wear one.

Your furry friend has had a procedure, and now they’re sporting a new look: a cone around their neck to protect them from scratching, licking, or biting themselves as their wound heals.

You know it’s for their own good but can’t help but wonder how long you’ll both have to put up with this thing.

Typically, a dog will need to wear a cone for 10 days to 2 weeks after a medical procedure, which in most cases, is enough time for the wounds to heal. After removing their staples and sutures, the dog cone can be safely removed.

Sometimes, a vet will recommend a slightly different healing period for your dog. In that case, the 10-14 day period may not be applicable. Listen to your vet instead.

This article will explore when exactly it is safe to take off your dog’s cone.

Want to know why the recommended time is what it is? I also will cover what happens if your dog licks their stitches and examine how a cone can affect a dog’s emotions and daily activities.

If your dog hates wearing the cone, I will also cover how to make it more bearable and list some cone alternatives.

Let’s get started!

Table of Contents
When Can You Take off Your Dog’s Cone?
What Happens If Your Dog Licks His Stitches?
Do Cones Make Dogs Depressed?
What If Your Dog Hates the Cone?
Can Your Dog Be Left Alone with a Cone On?
Can Your Dog Sleep with a Cone On?
But My Dog Looks so Sad in His Cone!

When Can You Take off Your Dog’s Cone?

You want to make sure your dog’s cone stays on until the site of their procedure is totally healed. On average, this will be about 10-14 days after they have undergone their treatment. By then, any staples or stitches are ready to come out, and your dog will be well on their way back to normal.

Wounds That Require Stitches

A variety of scenarios will cause your dog to need stitches, thus requiring them to wear a cone.

Your dog will need stitches after spaying or neutering. They will also need stitches for any wound or procedure, creating a more than half-inch cut in diameter, or if their wound is close to a joint, where the skin is tighter and moves a lot.

This friction can cause the wound’s edges to come apart.

What Happens If Your Dog Licks His Stitches?


You’ve likely heard the term “lick your wounds” used to refer to the process of healing after a difficult situation.

In the case of canines, there is some truth to this saying. A dog’s saliva is somewhat protective against Streptococcus canis and E. coli. Despite this tiny bit of benefit, a dog’s saliva is not a disinfectant or antibacterial solution.

A dog licking their wounds can be dangerous if they have stitches. A dog’s saliva can break down stitches and actually reopen the site of the wound. This can increase the time your dog is on the mend by interrupting the natural healing process.

It is difficult for your veterinarian to deal with stitches that your dog has opened up by licking. It is much better to prevent this from happening in the first place.

The best way to do this is to have your dog wear a cone for the amount of time your vet recommends.

Do Cones Make Dogs Depressed?

Science has not been able to prove that dogs can be clinically depressed. Yet, dogs can display depressive symptoms. These symptoms can be the result of many things. Wearing a cone around their head is one of them.

A worldwide survey of pet owners shows that cones appear to affect dog’s wellbeing. Aptly nicknamed “the cone of shame,” post-procedural cones can be responsible for causing distress. Some even reported that their dogs seemed depressed from wearing it.

The depressive symptoms caused by cones may result from how cones hinder the dog who is wearing one. Some of the complications of wearing a cone include:

  • Having a hard time drinking
  • Falling downstairs
  • Crashing into walls and furniture
  • Difficulty participating in usual play activities
  • Skin irritation from drooling around the neck area
  • Bruising from the physical challenges of moving with the cone on

What If Your Dog Hates the Cone?


It is understandable if your dog hates wearing a cone. Cones are cumbersome and make their daily activities more irritating than usual.

Your dog may look funny with an oversized cone around their neck, but this is the time to offer your dog compassion.

Your dog is likely uncomfortable from the medical procedure that they had in the first place. On top of this, every move they make is now hindered by a hefty appendage around their neck.

Keep in mind that they don’t understand what is going on. They have no idea that this whole situation is temporary and for their benefit.

Make the Dog Cone More Comfortable

If your dog seems to hate wearing their cone, there are ways to make it more comfortable for them. Please always heed your vet’s advice while considering the following tactics:

  • Make modifications to your dog’s environment. If your dog is struggling with eating or drinking, reposition their bowls. With your vet’s approval, take your dog’s collar off for mealtimes and then put it back on once they finish eating.
  • Help your dog move about. Your dog’s movements may be difficult due to their collar. It may help if you lead them around corners, going up and down stairs or when getting in and out of the car. You may want to reposition furniture to help them navigate smoothly at home.
  • Positively reinforce your dog when wearing their cone. Being extra gentle to your dog while they have their cone on can put them at ease. Cuddles and treats can encourage them as they endure their cone with patience.

How Should a Dog Cone Fit?

Your dog’s cone should fit comfortably yet be tight enough that it won’t fall off. Your dog should not be able to remove their cone themselves.

If you can fit two fingers between the collar and their skin, this indicates a good, secure fit. The collar should be long enough to protect the wound site and go past your dog’s nose when viewing their profile.

Can You Cut down a Dog Cone?

If your dog’s cone is really bothering them, it is best to check with your vet before cutting it.

Cutting your dog’s cone may do more harm than good and may reduce the collar’s ability to protect your dog. Cutting your dog’s cone may also create sharp edges that could hurt your dog.

Your vet will be able to offer solutions to get a collar that is a better fit for your dog.

How Can You Keep a Dog from Licking a Wound Without a Cone?

The most surefire way to keep a dog from licking is to use a cone. There are other ways to discourage a dog from licking without one. A few of these ways include:

  • Dressing your dog in a recovery suit that allows for easy removal for bathroom trips
  • Putting a wrapped sock or surgical tape over the site of irritation
  • Having your dog wear a t-shirt to allow for airflow while protecting their wound

Use a Dog Cone Alternative


There are alternatives to dog cones if you would like to try something different with your dog. I recommend reaching out to your vet to make sure they are okay with any alternative you are considering. Here are a few options to explore:

Can You Temporarily Take the Cone off Your Dog?

You should only take your dog’s cone off if your vet has given you the greenlight. Make sure you follow the parameters your vet gives you and any specific directions they have.

Can Your Dog Be Left Alone with a Cone On?


I do not recommend leaving your dog alone with a cone on.

Think of it as leaving a dear friend or child alone in a high-risk situation. It only takes a moment for a dog to finagle themselves out of their cone and scratch or lick their wound.

Your dog can also injure themselves due to the sheer difficulty of moving about with the cone on.

It may seem like a lot to watch your dog this close, but the consequences of leaving your pup unattended may set them back in their recovery.

Can Your Dog Sleep with a Cone On?

A dog can, and should, sleep with their cone on. Dogs should have no problem sleeping in a cone that fits properly. If your dog is having difficulty sleeping in their cone, it is likely irritating them somehow.

I recommend calling your vet and explaining what you observe as your dog struggles to sleep in their cone. Then, you and your vet can make the necessary adjustments to have your dog sleeping soundly in no time.

But My Dog Looks so Sad in His Cone!


It can be tempting to give in to your dog’s cries and looks of discomfort and take off their cone.

Doing this will put your dog in danger of disturbing their healing process and will only drag things out.

As a good puppy parent, in this situation, the best thing to do is the hardest.

Allowing your dog to wear their cone as long as your vet has asked them to will result in your dog’s speedy recovery.

They may look sad, silly, and agitated now, but they will be fully recovered and back to 100 percent in no time!

Dog ConeSpaying & Neutering
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