How Are Dogs Supposed to Eat While Wearing Cones?

It doesn't have to be this way; a slight adjustment will allow Dudley to enjoy his supper.
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Oh, the dreaded cone. Maybe Dudley's recovering from surgery, or perhaps he has a wound he's been fussing over. Whatever the reason for the collar, the vet's determined it's going to be part of your dog's healing process. He may not care for it, but your dog can eat and drink just fine while wearing his cone.

Give It Time

He's careening around the house, bumping into things -- doorways, chairs, table legs. And when he tries to grab a drink of water or bite of food to console himself, he sends his dish scattering across the floor. The indignity of the cone never ends. Though you're probably happy to have Dudley home and want him to settle in as quickly as possible, it might be best to give him a bit of time alone in a room to get used to his new accessory. The typical Elizabethan collar is stiff-sided and opaque, obstructing his view. Give your pup a few hours to get used to having the cone around his neck before dishing up dinner.

Making Do

You and Dudley may be lucky; he may be one of those dogs who has no problem at all eating and drinking with a cone on. However, if mealtime appears to be too challenging or frustrating for him, you can try a few options. If his normal food and water dishes are deep-sided, his collar may strike the outside of the dish and discourage him. Try using a plate for his dinner and a shallow bowl for his water, and make sure his food and water bowls are smaller in diameter than the cone is. Another option is to elevate his dishes a a few inches off the floor so the cone doesn't touch the floor while he eats; moving the dishes 6 to 8inches from the wall will also help.

Variations on a Theme

If Dudley is miserable in his Elizabethan collar and not eating, consider alternatives to the cone. The options range from simple modifications of a traditional cone, such as those that are soft or see-through, to quite different, such as an inflatable doughnut-shaped collar and one resembling a life preserver. The doughnut will give him better access to his food and the see-through cone may give him a better sense of placement. You can find alternatives in your local pet supply store or online.

Life in the Cone

If your vet provided the cone Dudley's wearing, it should already be properly sized and adjusted to ensure he's able to eat and drink. However, if he simply refuses to eat with the collar on, take it off at mealtime and stick around while he's eating to ensure he doesn't sneak a lick of his wound. As soon as he's finished, give him a nice head and neck rub and replace the collar. Make life easier for him while he's navigating in this new, challenging world by ensuring he has easy access to his bed -- keep it away from things he'll bump into. Above all, exercise patience and move slowly with him; remember, he has no peripheral vision with most cones, and you don't want to startle him.