Licking Our Wounds: E-Collars and Client Compliance

Posted: Mar 20, 2013
Views: 4075 - Comments: 5

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Recently I’ve had a few cases of "E-collar failure" in post-op. Sure, the E-collar was sent home. ON the pet. Yes, its use was explained and justified. Yes, instructions were typed in clear fashion, read to the clients and a signed copy filed. And yet, the E-collar was removed for one of the various reasons with which we are all so familiar:

“He doesn’t like it.”

“She can’t drink with it on.”

“He walks into the doorway with it.”

And my personal favorite... “She keeps scraping the back of my legs with the collar.” Oh, right. I had forgotten. It really is about you, not the pet.

As a reward we get the pleasure of seeing a beautiful incision turned to a dehiscence nightmare. How frustrating! And then to top it off, sometimes a client tries the old “But it’s good when animals lick their wounds, right? That cleans out the pus and stuff and helps it heal faster. I read that somewhere.” Probably in a Twilight novel… Anyway, I am astonished at how this myth has persisted.

Before you fire off a response, yes I am aware that saliva contains antibacterial lysozymes, I can even spell several of them. A couple may even be antiviral. And I agree that a dog or cat tongue can do an impressive job of debridement and removal of gross contamination. BUT… I’m talking about a closed, clean, dry surgical incision. Granted, there are probably a few skin bacteria around that would be susceptible to salivary peroxidase. On the other hand, I am not interested in populating that beautiful incision with Staph intermedius while the pet doggedly pulls out sutures or staples or whatever.

So, what to say to those clients? I mean, I really shouldn’t say most of the things that come to mind.

Client: “Wolves lick their wounds and they heal faster than dogs.”

Me: (silent while looking at the Italian greyhound with a broken radius) “Domestic dogs are not really the same as wolves. And I’d already ‘licked’ the wound for her at surgery.”

Client: “But she would only lick at it if it was good for her. That’s what instinct means.”

Me: (thinking about my dog eating dessicated cat turds from the litter box) “Not everything a dog does instinctively is actually good for the dog.”

Client: “Well, isn’t there some other way? She really doesn’t like anything around her neck.”

Me: “She has proven she will destroy her bandage if given the opportunity (three times in fact). We really need to protect the fracture site. This is only important for another week…"

Client: “I think I’ll just take her home and pour more hydrogen peroxide on it.”

Me: (Sigh)

Just for giggles, I googled "licking your wounds" and discovered some really… disturbing reports. I would recommend that you try “dogs licking wounds” instead, unless you truly need to be reminded of bizarre human behavior.

Anyway, I think maybe we will start taking a picture of each pet leaving the hospital wearing an E-collar. Perhaps we could make a poster “VOGUE Elizabethan Collar wear” or something. And before you post a list of all the alternatives to E-collars, like the donuts and the heavy turtle-neck style collars (trying like heck to avoid using a brand name here) and various icky-tasting sprays, we do recommend and try these.

What more could I say? I wouldn't be here today,
If the old school didn't pave the way
Tupac (Old School)



Megan Brashear's picture

SO PERFECT! An obvious companion to my client compassion blog, I love this. Dessicated cat turds. My new punk band name.

Terri Massa's picture

Perhaps if the e-collar manufacturers made the collars in fashion collars and designs we could get better compliance. Imagine how cool the owner would think it was if his dog was running around in a Spongebob Squarepants designer Elizabethan collar. Rhinestone trim for the foo-foo dogs? Camo for the hunting breeds?

Terri Massa's picture

Oops, that was supposed to be fashion 'colors', not 'collars'

Coby Richter's picture

Thanks for the comments, Terri. You may have hit on the next "good thing" as Martha S would say. Get some examples up on ETSY and I will be sure to send our clients your way :)

Shanna Wynne's picture

I could not stop laughing at "thinking about my dog eating desiccated cat turds from the litter box". That's the first thought that comes to my mind when my husband says "but their mouths are cleaner than ours" after I yell at my dog for licking my six month old IN the mouth.