I have never been a fan of putting a lampshade on a pet. A lampshade (technically called a Buster Collar) is used to prevent an animal licking a wound, as this hinders healing but, as a rule, animals absolutely hate them.
And even if they do get used to the large satellite dish arrangement round their neck, the back of the owner’s legs and the doorframes of the house certainly do not.
These devices have evolved over the years. The classic is, of course, the clear, stiff plastic version that attaches to the collar. The see-through nature is supposed to make it easier for the patient to see his surroundings, convincing the dog that he isn’t wearing it at all. More bad news for the doorframes.
The soft, floppy version is an attempt to save calves and the furniture, but mainly it just makes the dog look like a flower.
There are blow-up rubber rings, like those that might be used to help a toddler in the swimming pool. The theory is that the ring limits neck movement, stopping the dog from bending round to reach its wound. They don’t work very well, but at least offer some protection in case of aquatic accident.
There is a variation on this that looks like one of those neck braces people used to wear after car accidents in the 1980s. The poor dog’s head is held rigidly forwards, making it actually (and literally) a pain in the neck, because it can’t steer.
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One former colleague, for reasons unknown, used to recommend using an actual bucket, with its bottom cut off. A gloomy Labrador looks even more tragic with a bucket strapped to its head with baler twine.
But the latest wound protection strategies employ a completely novel concept. After an operation, our patients now leave the practice wearing a body suit – something between a baby-grow and a triathlon suit. The head is free to move but the pesky tongue can’t get to the wound. Dogs seem to like wearing them. I’m not sure cats are so keen.
However, comfortable and practical as canine all-in-ones are, they don’t work if we have to stop a dog rubbing his eye, or scratching his ear. Buster Collars are still the only thing for this.
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I saw a boxer this week, following surgery to remove a mass from his eyelid. Typical of a boxer dog, he barged in, clouting the door frame and his owner with the edges of his Buster Collar. Then he started to have a sneezing fit. It was chaos – legs, snot and a hard plastic collar smashing all over the place.
But then he came up with a solution. He pushed his collar firmly onto the floor, making a sturdy base to sneeze into.
My final visit of the week was a sad one. Elsie the bulldog had passed away during the night. She had been a regular visitor since I started at Boroughbridge and both the dog and her owners had become very good friends. I called to see them on my way home one day and as we spoke about the sad demise of one of my favourite patients and reminisced about the funny things she had done, I admired a quite magnificent lamp in the conservatory.
Its base was a bulldog, made of china, with a bulb emerging from between its ears, covered by a red lampshade. Despite the sad occasion, its appearance made us laugh.
“Julian, if it reminds you of my lovely dog, you can have it!” declared Mrs Taylor.
So now (to the horror of my kids) it is sitting on our kitchen table.
The Yorkshire Vet continues on Tuesday at 8pm on Channel 5.