How to Care For Your Dog’s Stitches After Surgery

dog in a suit bandage recovering from surgery

If the time comes for your dog to have surgery, it can be a little overwhelming knowing how to deal with the aftercare. It’s very important to make sure you take care of your dog’s stitches so they heal properly and don’t cause problems down the road. Here’s how to care for your dog’s stitches after surgery:

4 Tips For Caring For Your Dog’s Stitches

If your dog has surgery, it’s important to know how to care for your dog after surgery. And if they come home with stitches, there are a few more things to know about aftercare. It’s a lot harder to take care of a dog stitches versus a human because dogs don’t understand the need to keep still or be more gentle with the stitches. Here are a few tips to help you care for your dog stitches so the incision heals properly:

1. Keep Stitches and the Surrounding Area Dry

In order for the stitches to properly heal the incision, it is imperative that the stitches and area stay dry unless your veterinarian specifies otherwise. This will include no bathing or swimming, which might be hard for dog breeds that tend to love water.

Keeping your dog away from water is important because moisture can break down the sutures. This can lead to the wound reopening, which is why it’s so important to keep the area dry. If your dog must go out in the rain, make sure the incision site is properly covered.

While antibiotic creams and ointments are a few of the things to include in your dog’s first aid kit, do not use these on stitches unless instructed by the veterinarian. You should also avoid using alcohol as these chemicals can harm tissue.

If you feel that your dog needs to be bathed or cleaned, use dog-friendly bathing wipes but carefully avoid the affected area. Alternatively, there are some dog-friendly waterless shampoos available that can help freshen up your pup. But once again, make sure you check with your vet before using them and that you stay clear of the affected area.

2. Discourage Licking, Biting, and Scratching

As your dog’s stitches heal, it can become itchy. Infection and also healing can be reasons dogs can be itchy. If your dog’s sutures are in an area that they can access by licking or biting, it’s important that you discourage and prevent your dog from these actions. Not only does biting or licking introduce moisture to the area, but it can also disrupt the suture. Biting may even rip out a stitch, which might require your dog to go back for more stitches.

To prevent your dog from licking or biting when you are unable to supervise, you may want to use a cone. There are a few different options available, including a soft cone. There are also donut collars available that prevent your dog from licking at a specific area.

It’s also important that if your dog’s stitches are in an area where they can scratch, you should prevent your dog from scratching the affected area. Scratching can cause a lot of damage to stitches and the healing area so it’s important to keep an eye on your dog to keep them from scratching.

Unfortunately, a cone and other devices to stop licking and biting aren’t much help against scratching. If your dog understands the command “leave it”, use that when they begin to scratch at the area. If they still are tempted to scratch, you can use a T-shirt to cover the area. However, make sure you talk to your veterinarian before you do this as some stitches need to breathe.

3. Limit Activity

Rest is extremely important in letting the suture heal. Stitches can come apart during activity, which can prolong the healing process and may cause complications. To restrict activity, take your dog for bathroom breaks on a short leash.

Don’t allow them to run, climb, or jump. If your dog needs to use the stairs or get into the car, you may need to either carry them or use a device to help them up the steps or into your car.

4. Keep an Eye on the Area

You should check the suture area consistently and take note of any changes. You should also look for signs of infection, which can include pain, fever, swelling, or pus. Lethargy in dogs, as well as other behavior changes, may indicate an infection has begun. If you notice any of these changes or signs, get in touch with your veterinarian so they can take a look and decide on a course of treatment.

How Long Do Stitches Take to Heal?

Dog stitches typically take about 10 to 14 days to heal. However, that can vary based on a variety of factors. The age of your dog, the type of suture material, and the type of surgery all will factor into how long the stitches may take to properly heal.

Also, just because the incision is healed, doesn’t mean your dog can return to activity as normal. It’s important to keep an eye on the area even after the incision has healed.

How Do I Know My Dog’s Stitches Are Healing?

There are a few signs that your dog’s stitches are healing properly. The incision itself will be red for a few days afterward, but the surrounding skin should remain its normal color. If the incision is healing correctly, the edges should be together and healing smoothly.

Once the incision is healed, the redness should disappear and stitches should not be needed to keep the cut together. While discharge is often a sign of infection, sometimes discharge is normal. A small amount of discharge is normal up until about 72 hours after surgery. This type of discharge will be clear or light pink or yellow with no smell.

It’s important to help your dog’s incision heal properly. Making sure you know how to care for your dog’s stitches after surgery will help them get back to feeling like their playful and happy selves and prevent further issues.