Oh No! My Dog Ripped Out His Stitches After 10 Days – What Now?

Introduction

It’s distressing for any pet owner when their dog’s incision opens up after surgery. You diligently monitored the wound, kept your dog calm, and restricted activity, yet those stitches still didn’t hold. Now there’s an alarming gap in your dog’s healing incision. Don’t panic – with prompt care, these setbacks usually aren’t serious. Careful wound management can support healing. Understanding normal healing patterns and warning signs equips you to respond appropriately. We’ll cover how to manage open incisions at home, when to seek veterinary assistance, and how to prevent premature stitch removal next time.

Why Stitches May Be Needed

There are several common reasons why a dog may need stitches:

  • Spay or neuter surgery – When a female dog is spayed (ovaries and uterus removed) or a male dog is neutered (testicles removed), the incisions will be closed with stitches or staples. This is a routine surgery performed on most pet dogs.
  • Injury – Lacerations, bites, wounds, etc. may require stitches to close the skin and facilitate healing. Stitches bring the tissue together so it can mend.
  • Tumor removal – If a benign or cancerous mass is surgically removed, the incision will need to be stitched closed.
  • Foreign body surgery – If a dog swallows or ingests a foreign object that requires surgical removal, stitches will close up the incision.
  • Orthopedic surgery – Procedures like ACL repairs, fracture repairs, hip replacements, etc. involve surgical incisions that are stitched closed.
  • Biopsy – Incisions made to collect tissue samples for biopsies will require closure with stitches.

Stitches play an important role in closing surgical sites or wounds so they can heal properly. Depending on the location and severity, failure to stitch a dog’s incision could lead to excessive bleeding, infection, or other complications.

The Healing Process

On average, a dog’s incisions with stitches take 10-14 days to heal. However, this timeframe is influenced by factors like the size and depth of the wound, the dog’s age and health, and how well the wound is protected during recovery. Generally, the healing of a wound occurs in three main stages:

diagram showing the 3 stages of wound healing

1. Inflammatory Phase (0-3 days): This initial stage starts immediately after injury. The incision bleeds and begins clotting to stop blood loss. Swelling and redness occurs as the immune system sends white blood cells to clean and sterilize the wound. The dog may experience pain and tenderness during this phase.

2. Proliferative Phase (3-21 days): During this crucial stage, connective tissue starts to bridge the wound edges back together. New blood vessels form to restore circulation. Fibroblasts produce collagen to create scar tissue that fills the incision. Around day 10-14, the wound has gained enough strength for sutures/stitches to be removed.

3. Maturation Phase (21+ days): The scar continues maturing and remodeling itself. Collagen remodeling increases tensile strength. Full strength is regained around 6-12 months post-surgery, depending on the severity of the original injury. The scar may itch or remain slightly tender during this final phase. (VCA Animal Hospitals)

Warning Signs of Complications

After a dog has stitches, it’s important to monitor the surgical site for any signs of complications. Some warning signs to look out for include:

Redness: If the skin around the incision becomes darker pink or red, it could indicate an infection or inflammation. Redness is one of the first signs of a problem.

Swelling: If the area around the stitches becomes puffy, swollen or inflamed, this suggests fluid buildup and inflammation. Swelling that is warm and painful to the touch is especially concerning.

Discharge: Any leaking of fluid or pus from the incision requires prompt veterinary attention, as it signals an infection.

Catching these complication warning signs early allows vets to intervene before the problem worsens. It’s critical to monitor the stitches daily and alert the vet at the first sign of redness, swelling or discharge around the incision site.

When Stitches Get Removed Too Early

Getting stitches removed too early can happen if the pet owner takes off the cone collar or protective bandages before the recommended healing time. Dogs may try to lick, bite, or scratch at their incision site, which can pull out the stitches prematurely.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, non-dissolving sutures, staples, or stent sutures are usually removed 10-14 days after surgery, depending on the procedure [1]. Premature removal can occur if owners do not follow aftercare instructions properly.

Risks of early stitch removal include the wound reopening, infection setting in, and complications with the healing process. The incision needs time to close up properly from the inside out. If stitches come out too soon, the wound edges may separate and create an open gash.

According to Rover, dogs should wear an Elizabethan collar at all times until sutures are removed, to prevent them from disturbing the site [2]. Owners need to be vigilant in preventing early removal.

First Aid for Open Wounds

If your dog’s stitches have been removed too early, the first priority is to stop any bleeding from the open wound. Apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean, absorbent material like gauze or a clean towel. Hold pressure for 5-10 minutes until bleeding slows. Bandaging the wound will help maintain pressure and protect the wound site. Use a sterile bandage or clean cloth to loosely wrap the injured area. It’s important not to wrap too tightly. The bandage should be snug but allow normal circulation and range of motion (source).

person applying pressure to a dog's bleeding wound

After the wound has been bandaged, it’s essential to have your veterinarian examine your dog as soon as possible. They can properly assess the wound, treat any infection, pain and recommend next steps for care. Having stitches removed too early can lead to complications like increased scarring, so your vet may opt to re-suture the wound (source). With prompt veterinary attention, your dog has the best chance of healing normally after premature stitch removal.

Preventing Premature Removal

There are a few key ways to help prevent your dog from prematurely removing their stitches:

Use an e-collar (also known as an Elizabethan collar). This is the cone-shaped collar that prevents your dog from being able to bite or lick their incision site. It should be worn at all times except during meals until the stitches are removed by the vet (Source).

Provide constant supervision when your dog is not wearing an e-collar. Restrict access to any furniture or areas where they may be inclined to lick or bite their stitches. Keep dogs confined to a crate or small room when you cannot directly watch them (Source).

dog wearing an elizabethan collar

Ask your vet about prescribing medication to reduce pain, inflammation, and anxiety. This can make dogs less likely to bother their incision site. Sedatives may also be prescribed for extremely active dogs. Follow dosage instructions carefully (Source).

Seeing the Veterinarian

If your dog has pulled out their stitches, it’s important to take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible for an exam. The vet will assess the wound and determine if it has become infected or inflamed. They may take your dog’s temperature, examine the stitches and surrounding tissue, and check for discharge or odor, which can indicate infection.

Treatment will depend on the severity of the wound and how much it has reopened. Options may include:

  • Cleaning and flushing the wound to remove debris or discharge
  • Prescribing oral antibiotics to prevent or treat infection
  • Applying antibiotic ointment and re-suturing the wound
  • Covering the wound with a bandage or Elizabethan collar to prevent further damage
  • Recommending rest and restricted activity to encourage healing

In severe cases, hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics may be needed. Follow your vet’s recommendations closely to help your dog recover. Monitor the wound for any worsening and contact your vet if you have concerns. With proper treatment, most dogs heal well after pulling out stitches. (https://lortsmith.com/need-help-now/dog/injury-trauma/pulled-out-stitches-in-dogs/)

Recovery and Aftercare

After your dog’s stitches have been prematurely removed or torn open, recovery and aftercare are crucial for healing. Keeping the wound clean is essential to prevent infection. Use a sterile saline solution or another gentle cleanser recommended by your veterinarian to gently flush away dirt and debris at least twice a day. Pat the area dry with clean gauze or a towel. Your vet may prescribe antibiotic ointments or solutions to apply as well.

Restrict your dog’s activity to slow movement on leash only, with no running, jumping, or rough play. Confine them when you cannot directly supervise. This allows the wound to mend without being disturbed or stressed. Follow all exercises restrictions from your vet, which may include no walks for a period of time. Provide puzzle toys and chews to keep their mind engaged without physical exertion. Limit access to stairs, furniture, and vehicles.

Follow up promptly with your veterinarian to check healing and decide if replacement stitches are needed. With proper aftercare of the wound, many dogs heal well despite early stitch removal. But your vet can best assess the situation and advise on next steps for your dog’s recovery.

Prevention Tips for Next Time

There are several things you can do to help prevent your dog from prematurely removing their stitches next time:

Use an Elizabethan collar – Also known as an E-collar, this plastic cone collar placed around your dog’s neck prevents them from licking or chewing at their incision site. It may be annoying for your dog at first, but it’s an effective way to protect their stitches.

dog wearing an elizabethan collar to prevent licking

Oral pain medication – Your vet may prescribe oral pain meds after surgery to reduce discomfort. This can help curb chewing urges if the incision is irritating your dog.

Bitter apple spray – Spraying bandages and the skin around the incision with a bitter taste deterrent like Bitter Apple can make your dog less likely to lick or chew the area.

Supervision – Closely supervise your dog anytime the E-collar is removed for eating, drinking or short breaks. This allows you to intervene if they start licking or chewing.

Sedatives if necessary – For extremely determined dogs, your vet may prescribe a mild sedative to calm anxiety and destructive chewing habits in the critical healing phase.

Consider a recovery suit – These are bodysuits for dogs that protect incisions while still allowing bathroom breaks. They prevent interference with the healing area.

Routine rebandaging – If bandages become loose or soiled, promptly replace them to protect the underlying stitches.Source

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