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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Suture Problems View In Dogs

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Nearly every pet will have stitches at some time during her life, if only for a spay surgery.


Occasionally, the body has a reaction to the material, and the tissue becomes red, swollen, and inflamed. At other times, a stitch comes loose or is removed by the pet, and the incision gapes open.


The irritation from an infected suture makes it nearly impossible for a pet to resist the urge to lick and nibble at it, and without first aid to relieve the itching, dogs are especially likely to lick their incisions.


Diagnosis can be made by examining the incision area.


A little inflammation is easy to treat at home. Although a gaping hole in the incision needs immediate veterinary attention, first aid is still vital to keep your pet from doing any further damage to herself.

  1. Apply a hot compress - A small amount of swelling directly around the stitches, staples, or incision line is normal. If the area looks very red or feels hot in an area beyond the incision line, or if the tissue seems to have a discharge of puss, take your pet to the vet. She may have an infection. In the mean time, apply a hot, wet compress to help speed the healing and clean out any drainage. Run water from the tap as hot as you can stand, soak a cloth, wring it out, and place it on the incision line 2 - 3 times a day, 5 minutes on 5 minutes off until the cloth cools.
  2. Keep the incision line clean - Use a bit of water or sterile saline contact lens solution on a gauze pad or clean cloth. When there is a small gap in the incision where your pet has removed a stitch or staple, clean the area the same way and blot it dry with a paper towel or dry gauze pad. If medical care isn't available, you may be able to close the wound yourself with one or more butterfly bandages, which are available in drugstores. Also, call your vet as they may want to check the incision.
  3. Cover large openings with plastic wrap - If a gaping wound is visible into the abdomen, cover the area with a clean gauze pad or cloth soaked in water or sterile saline solution. Wrap plastic wrap all the way around the body to hold the wound together, then seek immediate medical attention.
  4. Keep your pet from bothering the wound - If there is only a little inflammation and the sutures are intact, but your pet keeps bothering them, use an cone collar called the Elizabethan collar available at most pet stores.
  5. Make a body stockingIf your pet is small, you can cut the top off a tube sock or heavy duty tights and make a sort of girdle or body stocking. The tube of material fits snugly over the entire body, leaving the legs and tail free, and covers the incision to protect it from licking or chewing. If he's bigger, you can make a body wrap with a sheet and some safety pins.
  6. Put him in a t-shirt - With a larger pet, you can put a t-shirt on him and wrap it with tape or an elastic bandage like an Ace bandage to keep it in place. This not only offers a barrier to the teeth, but also gives your dog something to work on other than himself.


Keeping all suture areas cleaned with a Betadine Skin Cleanser or equivalent will help to prevent infection.


Contact your veterinarian with any questions regarding this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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