Elizabethan collars are used in companion animals primarily to prevent self-trauma and associated negative welfare states in animals. However, they have been anecdotally associated with negative impacts on animal health and welfare including distress, abraded/ulcerated skin and misadventure. This study aimed to characterise the welfare impacts of Elizabethan collar use on companion dogs and cats, as reported by owners. Owners of pets who wore an Elizabethan collar during the past 12 months were surveyed about the impacts that the use of Elizabethan collars had on animal activities, in particular sleep, eating, drinking, exercise, interactions with other animals, as well as overall quality of life (QOL). The majority of 434 respondents (77.4%) reported a worse QOL score when their companion animal was wearing the collar, significantly so when the Elizabethan collar irritated their pet or impacted on their ability to drink or play. While other factors are likely to impact animal welfare during veterinary treatment that necessitates the use of Elizabethan collars, this study suggests that Elizabethan collars themselves might have negative welfare impacts in a range of domains including nutrition, environment, health, behaviour and mental state. We recommend that animal owners are informed about potential negative impacts of Elizabethan collars and harm minimisation strategies. Where possible, alternative methods of preventing self-trauma should be explored.
Keywords: Elizabethan collar; animal welfare; quality of life (QOL), animal behaviour.