First aid

My Dog's Stitches Are Open

 
Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: April 4, 2024
My Dog's Stitches Are Open
Dogs

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Our dogs can experience various health issues which require surgery. Common surgical procedures in dogs are castration in males and spaying in females. When these procedures take place, the veterinary professionals will explain what their postoperative care requires. Invasive surgery requires the stitching back together of the incision wound known as a suture. Part of the dog's care is to maintain their hygiene as well as preventing them from opening. This can be accidental or due to the dog pulling them out themselves.

At AnimalWised, we look at what to do when my dog's stitches are open. We look at what treatment options are available, as well as how we can best avoid our dog pulling out stitches.

You may also be interested in: My Dog's Stitches Are Infected

Contents

  1. Open dog stitches
  2. How long do dogs have stitches?
  3. My dog keeps licking their stitches
  4. My dog's stitches are open, but not bleeding
  5. How to prevent a dog's stitches opening

Open dog stitches

When a dog undergoes a surgery requiring an incision, different types of stitches or sutures are used to close up the wound. During the postoperative period, it is important to maintain the suture's hygiene and integrity. When hygiene is poor, it can result in bacterial infections which can seriously threaten the health of the dog. When the wound opens, it prevents healing and increases the likelihood of infection, as well as other problems.

Surgical wounds which are closed correctly should have the following appearance:

  • A clean incision is seen.
  • Stitches are held in place, allowing both edges of the wound to remain in contact.
  • The edges of the wound may be slightly thickened.
  • There may be a slight discharge, transparent and fluid.
  • The color of the skin around the wound is pinkish or slightly reddish.

We will need to review the wound daily, both to redress it and to observe for any abnormalities. One of the most frequent is the dog's stitches falling out and the wound becoming open. This is partly because the dog may not know to look after the wound, so they will either lick it open with their mouth, scratch it with their legs or simply straining their body to the point the stitches open.

If you see your dog has pulled their stitches out or they have otherwise come open, you need to go to a veterinarian as soon as possible. They can check the wound, administer the appropriate treatment and help avoid serious consequences to the dog's health.

Sometimes the stitches opening can lead to bleeding. Learn more with our article on a dog bleeding after being spayed.

How long do dogs have stitches?

Surgical wounds in dogs usually take about 10-14 days to heal. The veterinarian will likely schedule a follow-up appointment after this time to carry out a review and potentially remove the stitches. This will depend on the type of suture used as some are dissolvable, meaning they are able to be absorbed by the dog's tissue. If not, but the wound has healed correctly, they will remove the stitches.

Take a look at our article on what happens when a dog's wounds do not heal.

It is increasingly common to use intradermal sutures which are buried in the skin. These types of sutures are not visible from the outside, making it difficult for dogs to pull out the stitches. For this type of intradermal sutures, a resorbable suture material is used. This is eventually eliminated by the body itself. In this type of suture it is not necessary to remove the stitches, since they themselves are reabsorbed. Treatment is only required if there is infection or another problem.

My dog keeps licking their stitches

The healing process usually causes a sensation of tightness and itching on and around the wound. It is common for dogs to have a tendency to scratch or lick the stitches. It is vital we prevent our dog from taking the stitches out or the wound being opened for any reason. If we don't, the following may occur:

  • Suture can become infected: infections not only delay healing, but they can threaten the life of the dog. This can occur if the dog's blood is poisoned or if they have an already compromised immune system. Some of the signs that may indicate that the wound has become infected include redness, swelling and heat around the wound site. When the infection advances, it can result in purulent and/or bloody discharge, as well as a foul odor.

  • Dehiscence of the wound: licking or scratching of the wound can lead to the sides of the wound edges partially or totally separating (dehiscence). This is very dangerous as it makes the dog vulnerable to infection as well as trauma to very sensitive tissue.

In any case, it is important we take the dog to the veterinary center where the surgery was performed. They will be able to examine the wound, test for infection and troubleshoot any other problems which may have arisen. Depending on the state of the wound, the degree of healing and the functionality of the suture, a more or less aggressive treatment will be chosen.

In mild cases, it will be enough to start antibiotic treatment. In severe infections or when wound dehiscence or opening has occurred, surgical intervention will be necessary. This will be used to thoroughly clean the wound and remove infected or necrotic material. When dealing with open stitches in dogs, it is best to let a professional do the work.

Take a look at our related article to know in more detail what to do when a dog's stitches are infected.

My dog's stitches are open, but not bleeding

In the early stages of a dog's recovery, it is common for the dog to bleed if their stitches are pulled out accidentally. The purpose of the sutures is to help the skin meet and close over as part of the healing process. If they are pulled out soon after the surgery, the skin has not had sufficient time to heal and close over, so bleeding is more likely.

When the stiches are pulled out towards the end of the healing process, it is possible they have done their job sufficiently to close up the wound. Bleeding is less likely in these cases and we may not need to intervene. We will still need to keep the wound clean since bacteria can enter in the areas where the sutures were inserted, even if there is little to no bleeding.

The type of stitch or suture which is used can also affect whether the dog will bleed when their stiches are pulled out. There are some stitches which sit on top of the skin, rather than being inserted into the tissue. In these cases, they might not bleed when removed, although the wound will bleed according to the stage of healing. Dissolvable stitches may look like they have been pulled out, but are simply absorbed and cause no additional bleeding.

If the dog's stitches are open, but not bleeding, it is important to inspect the wound. If it is still open and you are in the early stages of the healing process, you should contact the veterinarian even if there is no blood. It could be there is a problem with their blood supply, but the incision is still at greater risk of infection.

Learn about the healing of other lesions with our article on what happens when a dog has a bite wound from another dog.

My Dog's Stitches Are Open - My dog's stitches are open, but not bleeding

How to prevent a dog's stitches opening

To prevent dogs from removing stitches in the post-operative period, it is important to comply with the following recommendations:

  • Protect the wound: using light dressings and bandages, we will not only provide the wound with the optimal degree of moisture for healing, but will also prevent the animal from licking or scratching the wound.

  • Elizabethan collar: although they can be somewhat annoying for the dog, especially during the first few hours, it is important to keep an Elizabethan collar around the dog's neck to prevent the dogs from accessing the wound with their mouths. It can be more difficult to stop the dog scratching with their paws, depending on the location of the wound.

  • Comply with the post-surgical treatment: administering the analgesics prescribed by the veterinarian will help reduce pain or discomfort in the wound. In turn, this will help prevent the animal from showing excessive interest in touching or licking the wound.

  • Change routine accordingly: if your dog was previously very active and liked to run around, we may need to curtail this behavior until the wound is healed. We should not take them for walks in places with vegetable or other objects which might cause the wound to open.

If your dog has stitches due to neutering, keeping the stitches safe is not your only consideration. Learn more with our article on what to expect after you neuter your dog.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to My Dog's Stitches Are Open, we recommend you visit our First aid category.

Bibliography
  • Sopena, J. (2011). Medical-surgical treatment of wounds, application in dermatology I and II. Tenth Congress of Veterinary Specialties, AVEPA.
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