How to Care for a Dog With Stitches

Two Methods:Caring For the StitchesMonitoring Your Dog's Behavior

When a dog is injured or has surgery, they often leave the veterinarian's office with stitches. During this time, it is important to take care of his wound so he can heal properly. A large part of ensuring a smooth recovery is knowing what the dog is and isn’t allowed to do and identifying any signs that things aren’t quite right so you can contact the vet. Typically a wound or surgical incision takes 10 to 14 days to fully heal, so you need to be vigilant for the duration of the healing period or until signed off by the vet.

Method 1
Caring For the Stitches

  1. Image titled Care for a Dog With Stitches Step 1
    Keep your dog from chewing or licking his stitches. After the painkillers and anesthesia wear off, your dog might try chewing or licking his stitches. This can not only damage the skin, but also cause infection. Try to deter him from doing this. You can try disciplining him if he starts to bother the stitches; it may also be necessary to put a muzzle on him.[1]
    • If you have to, have your dog wear a cone collar to prevent him from bothering his stitches until they are healed. Make sure to leave it on for the duration of the healing process. If you take it on and off, your dog might start rebelling when you try to place it on him.[2] You might have to leave it on for up to two weeks.
    • You can also get a neck brace, which makes a dog unable to turn his head. This might help if the cone collar is getting in the way.
  2. Image titled Care for a Dog With Stitches Step 2
    Try not to let the dog scratch the stitches. Once the wound starts healing, it may start to itch, which means your dog will want to scratch. If this is the case, try to deter this behavior. Sometimes, the cone collar can help. If it doesn’t, then cover the stitches with gauze or bandages. Keep supervising your dog to make sure she’s not scratching them.[3]
    • You can also put booties or wraps on her paws and claws to keep the wound from getting hurt.
    • Scratching can rip open the stitches and the wound. Dirt and bacteria on the dog's nails can also infect the wound.
    • Scratching and rubbing can also cause swelling. If the wound swells too much, it might cause the stitches to break.
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    Make sure the wound and stitches are clean. Make sure the dog doesn’t get muddy or get the incision dirty. This can cause infection or other complications. This means keeping him from going outside on his own or letting him roam around muddy or wooded areas.[4]
    • Don’t apply ointment, cream, disinfectants, or anything else without your vet’s permission. Don’t use solutions like hydrogen peroxide or alcohol because it can harm the healing process.
    • You should change the dressing according to your vet’s orders.
    • Make sure the dog’s bed is clean. Place a clean sheet or towel on the bed each night and replace when it becomes even lightly soiled.
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    Keep the wound and stitches dry. Do not bathe your dog during the recovery period. The incision and stitches shouldn’t get wet. Moisture can encourage bacteria to multiply and cause an infection. In addition, moisture softens the skin, which makes it a less effective barrier against infection.
    • To keep the stitches and bandages dry when the dog goes outside, place a plastic bag or plastic clingwrap around the area when she goes outside. Just remove it as soon as the dog comes back inside.[5]
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    Monitor the stitches. If there are no bandages, then look at the stitches a couple of times a day. This helps you notice changes or infections. This is very important for the healing of your dog.[6] The healing wound should look clean with the edges touching each other. You may see some bruising around the incision, and the incision might be slightly redder than the skin around it.[7]
    • The incision might be slightly puffy or raised. Minor seepage, like a drop of clear or blood-stained fluid, may occur. However, if you notice abnormal swelling, steady seepage, thick discharge, or yellow-green discharge, contact your vet.
    • Look for any swelling, heated skin, odor, discharge, irritation, or new damage.[8]
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    Cover the incision. If you can’t keep the dog from licking or touching the stitches, you can cover the stitches. If the stitches are on the dog’s torso, try putting a t-shirt on him. Make sure it’s cotton, so it will breathe. Just make sure the t-shirt fits the dog and isn’t too large or too tight. You can tie the shirt to keep it from moving up the dog’s torso.[9]
    • This is helpful if you have multiple dogs and can’t keep them separated.
    • You can also cover the stitches with a bandage. This might be necessary if the wound is on a limb.
    • If the dog scratches at the wound with a back leg, try putting a snug-fitting sock on that paw so the nails can’t rip at the stitches.[10]

Method 2
Monitoring Your Dog's Behavior

  1. Image titled Care for a Dog With Stitches Step 7
    Schedule the surgery when you can be at home. Unless the surgery is emergency, try to schedule the surgery at a time where you can be at home with your dog. You want to watch for any odd symptoms, make sure your dogs rests and doesn’t over do it, and just be there for your dog.
    • During this time you shouldn’t have a lot of house guests. Keep your home quiet and calm for your dog so she can rest.
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    Avoid excess activity. When your dog has stitches, you should limit his physical activity. Stretching or over-exertion can cause swelling of the operation site. Don’t let your dog run up and down stairs, jump up to greet people, or engage in other hyper activities. It may stretch the operation site, causing inflammation which leads to swelling, pain, and discomfort.[11]
    • Keep the dog on a leash for seven to 14 days after the injury or surgery. This helps avoid too much activity and helps keep the dog from getting into something that might infect the wound.[12]
    • This may be hard at home. If you can't keep your dog calm, you may need to put him in a kennel to keep his activity level down.
    • Use barriers to keep the dog from going up the stairs. Whenever you leave the dog alone, put up barriers to keep him from running around or jumping on things.
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    Keep your dog away from other dogs. Other dogs also pose a risk to your dog when she has stitches. Other dogs might want to lick your dog’s wounds, so keep her away from other dogs during the healing period. This includes dogs in your own home.[13]
    • You may also need to keep her in a kennel to keep her away from other animals.
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    Contact the vet if you have concerns. Your pet’s health is the first concern. If you notice any excess bleeding, unusual swelling, or discharge from the wound, contact your vet. If your dog start running a fever, gets sick, throws up, or shows any other signs of poor health, also contact your vet.
    • If you are unsure about anything, call your vet or e-mail her a photo. She can help you determine if your dog is healing normally.[14]

Article Info

Categories: Canine Health