Yes – dogs can sleep, eat, drink, pee, and poop with a cone on. In fact, the stricter you are with the cone (officially called an Elizabethan collar or E-collar for short), the quicker your dog will get used to it. Plus, leaving the cone on at all times is one of the best ways to ensure they heal as quickly as possible.
Despite the stubbornly persistent myth that animal saliva speeds up healing, licking an incision is a sure way to interrupt the healing process. A dog licking their wound or chewing on their skin could cause them to inadvertently rip out their stitches, which could then reopen the incision or wound and introduce bacteria into it, which could cause a secondary infection.
Depending on how bad the damage is, treatment could require rinsing the open area, cutting out damaged tissue, and re-stitching the entire incision. The potential harm that can be done in a few minutes of “freedom” from the cone of shame is not worth the risk of causing more harm to your dog and ultimately prolonging their discomfort (not to mention the money that extra trip to the veterinarian is going to cost you).
By leaving the cone on when they’re asleep (and in effect, when you’re asleep and can’t watch them), you 100% ensure this doesn’t happen.
With that said, if your dog absolutely cannot stand the cone, there are certain E-collar alternatives (as well as tips and tricks) that can help make your dog more comfortable while still achieving the same purpose.
Luckily, in most cases, the E-collar (or some alternative to it) really only needs to be kept on your dog 7-10 days after surgery, which allows enough time for primary healing to occur. We promise, even if your dog seems to absolutely hate the cone of shame, they won’t hold it against you in the long run– so stay strong and remember that keeping it on at all times is really the best and most loving thing you can do for them.