How to Place an E-Collar on a Dog or Cat in Veterinary Medicine | VETgirl Veterinary Continuing Education Videos
In this VETgirl online veterinary continuing education video, Amy Johnson, BS, LVT, RLATG, CVJ, VETgirl’s Manager of Content Development, and Michaela Witcher, MS, CVT, review how to place an E-Collar on a dog or a cat. Putting an Elizabethan collar (E-collar) is an important technique that must be mastered by CSR, vet assistants, triage, veterinary technicians, and veterinarians to ensure patient (and sometimes staff) safety. Whether you have to place an e-collar on a dog or cat, this is a must-know procedure to keep patients safe, both in the veterinary clinic and at home!
There are several varieties of e-collars on the market nowadays. Soft-sided e-collars slip over the patient’s head and are secured with a tie, while others may use Velcro that is stuck on the sides to both size the collar and secure it in place. If you are utilizing one of the more popular and traditional e-collars, following these simple steps may assist you with assembling and sizing the ideal collar for your patient.
First, E-collars that snap into place:
With these e-collars, you will find black snaps on one end of the collar and multiple sets of openings for those clamps to fit into on the other side of the collar. You will need to identify the holes along the side that will allow you to secure the e-collar to your patient without being too tight around your patient’s neck. Or too loose to come off from your patient. Once you have identified the correct set of holes for your unique patient, you snap the black clamps into the openings.
Now, more traditional E-Collars:
These e-collars require you first to identify the row of slits that will be correctly sized to your patient’s neck circumference. Once identified, you should fold the e-collar so that the portion of the e-collar with precut windows lies over the top of your selected row of slits. Holding these openings in place will allow you to feed the extended tab into and through the window, then into the first slit in the row. Pull through and then immediately back up through the next slit and back through the window. Continue down the row, going through each window, feeding the extended tab in and out each slit within the window, and then pulling through until you have completed this process. Once you reach the end, there is often a final slit that will allow you to feed the extended tab into the space between the two sides of the e-collar.
The final step in assembly is to secure the short tabs, which will become the loops to pass the muzzle gauze (or patient collar). The short tabs will be passed into and out of the slits that reside immediately next to them. The tab will loop to the outside of the e-collar into the first slit, then immediately back out the second slit. The tab’s end should end on the outside of the e-collar. Move around the e-collar until all these tabs have been looped.
Once all the tabs have been secured and your e-collar is assembled, you will need to feed a piece of gauze or the patient’s collar through the loops to secure the e-collar around the patient’s neck. If using gauze, you will want to cut or tear a piece long enough to pass through the collar and tie a bow around the patient’s neck. Remember this bow will need to be tied and untied many times as the collar comes on and off the patient. So, make sure it is long enough to do this easily but not so long that the patient can access the gauze.
If, instead, you would like to utilize the patient’s own collar to secure the e-collar in place, you will need to remove the collar from the patient and feed it through the loops on the e-collar. Once the e-collar has been secured over the patient’s head, the collar will be closed as usual. This can’t be done with a martingale collar or any other collar type that can only be slipped over the patient’s neck without opening fully.
The e-collar is now ready to slide over our patient’s head and finally be secured.
E-collars come in a variety of lengths depending on your patient’s needs. If the e-collar you have chosen and assembled is not long enough, move to a larger size to ensure the collar does the job it needs to. For the use of an e-collar to prevent the patient from accessing a wound or bandage, you will want to select an e-collar that extends 1-2” beyond the tip of the patient’s nose. Remember that when using e-collars for restraint purposes, you may choose a longer than necessary e-collars for safety reasons.
Once you have selected the ideal size regarding both length and neck circumference, and the e-collar has been assembled, slide the e-collar over your patient’s head, pulling their ears gently inside.
Note: For some patients, assembling the e-collar around the patient may work better than trying to slide the e-collar over the patient’s head.
For cats, the assembly and size selection are the same as in a dog. Find the size that will work best for your patient’s needs and then gently slide it over the patient’s head and pull their ears to the inside.
To secure an e-collar in place, Place the gauze or the patient’s collar through the loops and clasp the collar or tie the gauze to hold the e-collar in place.
Once secured, verify that you can fit 2 fingers between the gauze or collar and your patient’s neck. The goal of securing the e-collar is to allow it to be tight enough that it will not be easily removed from over the ears.
When removing an e-collar, first untie or release the collar clasp, then gently slide the e-collar over the patient’s head.