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Aftercare Tips for a Pup With Stitches
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Aftercare Tips for a Pup With Stitches

Critter Culture Staff
Updated May 16, 2022

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Your dog has a health issue and requires surgery. The news may throw you off, but this is a challenge like any other, and you've got this. You'll be all set for aftercare with a thorough briefing from the vet and some planning. And you can maintain a regular schedule—just be sure to call in reinforcements such as a sitter your dog knows well. Brief the sitter and inform other household members about post-op rules and requirements. This prep ensures your dog comes home to an optimal environment and can recover well.

1

Curb your canine's activity

Female Golden Retriever Lies in Her Dog Crate Christine McCann / Getty Images

It might not be fun, but the surgery site needs time to heal. Your dog may be raring to go with sound pain management, even though play, jumping, and exercise are a bad idea. Activity can lead to an open wound and further swelling during the first two weeks of recovery. After surgery, avoid muddy or wet areas that could dirty the wound, don't go on long walks, and use a short leash even for potty sessions. Avoid busy areas where your wounded soldier might find other boisterous dogs and accidentally tear their stitches. Your dog should not be able to lope up or down the stairs in your home, and you'll need to crate your buddy or place them in a small safe room when you're off at work or doing errands.

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2

Try sedatives

Dog taking essential oil from dropper Photoboyko / Getty Images

Sedatives can help tone activity down, but remember that medication can cause side effects, including wonky reflexes and impeded mobility. Hence, comfortable confinement is essential because the last thing you need is another injury. Keep your dog company in its recovery room, or tie it to yourself or a piece of sturdy furniture near you.

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3

Hello, nurse

Senior dog with Elizabethan collar JulPo / Getty Images

As a primary caregiver, your job is to monitor the stitches in the mornings and evenings to confirm all is well. Some bruising is perfectly normal, but a foul odor, odd-colored discharge, or heat may need to be looked into to be on the safe side. The wound's edges should also touch each other.

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4

Skip the bath

welsh corgi pembroke dog after a knee TPLO surgery, due to a CCL rapture, with a shaved leg

The wound needs to stay dry because moisture can lead to infection. So, bathing is out of the question, and your vet will be specific about the kinds of lotions and potions you can apply to the incision. Steer clear of any ointments or solutions that are not vet-approved. A plastic bag or cling wrap can provide brief waterproofing for outdoor sessions.

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5

Keep it clean

dog sleeping under white blanket

If your dog has surgical drains, clean them as per the doctor's orders. And change your dog's bedding daily. Lightly soiled linens can be a breeding ground for bacteria, so lay a clean towel or sheet down every night or whenever you notice something amiss. Two weeks is a long time, so if you need to, you can spot clean Rufus with a washcloth.

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6

Prevent wound scratching and licking

Dog wearing protective cone lying on floor Tim Kitchen / Getty Images

Wound healing can get itchy, and if you've ever had sutures, you'll know how difficult it is to resist scratching. Dog nails harbor bacteria that could hinder the healing process, and dogs don't have the impulse control to leave well alone. So, as annoying as it might be for your pet, you'll need to employ an Elizabethan collar. Collars are comfier than they used to be—think airplane neck pillow rather than a stiff plastic megaphone-like cone. But if you're stuck with the latter, your dog will become accustomed to it. You can also try neck braces and muzzles. Self-trauma via biting is one way to express pain and discomfort, so consult your vet about possible pain and cold therapies.

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7

Cover it up

French Bulldog wearing a plaid onesy

You can put on a onesie or a breathable cotton T-shirt with an elastic hair tie. This serves as another protective barrier. When the wound isn't on the torso, cover the incision on the limb with a bandage. In addition, you can use a sock on the paw that's fussing with the wound.

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8

Different types of stitches

Sad dog sitting with a vet and wearing a protective collar around his neck NickyLloyd / Getty Images

Your dog's surgery may involve stitches placed underneath the skin, which won't require removal. The same goes for dissolvable stitches. However, you will need to return to the animal clinic if your dog's wound was closed with staples. The follow-up visit and sterilization procedure usually occur two weeks after the operation.

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9

Don't wing it

Young man with dog at home browsing smartphone Sergii Gnatiuk / Getty Images

Ask your vet what you would need to do if you had a burning question after-hours. You may be able to call the clinic or text staff and ask for advice about ruptured stitches, bleeding, a fever, medication schedules, dosages, food, handling, and general care. By playing guessing games, you could delay recovery.

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10

Lay the TLC on thick

Boston Terrier puppy in a crate wrapped in a blanket chewing a soft pink toy. CBCK-Christine / Getty Images

Consider how poorly you feel when you're not well and head to the hospital. Imagine if the doctors were dogs barking in a language you didn't understand—your anxiety would be through the roof. You are the constant in your pet's life. Acknowledge the ordeal it's been through and pile on the affection. Make its bed extra comfy, and throw in special vet-approved treats and toys that keep buddy occupied without having to move. Soon, the trauma will be a distant memory.

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