top of page

How to Check Your Pet’s Stitches After Surgery

Introduction to Check Your Pet’s Stitches After Surgery

When your pet undergoes surgery, whether it's a routine procedure like spaying or neutering, or a more complex operation, ensuring a smooth recovery is crucial. One of the key aspects of post-surgery care is monitoring and managing your pet’s stitches. Proper care and vigilance can prevent complications and promote healing. This guide provides an exhaustive look into every aspect of caring for your pet’s stitches after surgery.

Understanding the Surgical Process

The Importance of Surgery

Surgery in pets can be performed for various reasons, including:

  • Routine Procedures: Such as spaying, neutering, dental cleanings, and tumor removals.

  • Emergency Procedures: Such as those needed for trauma, intestinal blockages, or other life-threatening conditions.

  • Diagnostic Procedures: Including biopsies or exploratory surgeries.

  • Therapeutic Procedures: For treating conditions like cruciate ligament repairs or hip dysplasia.

Understanding the reason behind your pet’s surgery helps in knowing what to expect during the recovery process.

Types of Surgical Incisions

There are several types of incisions and closures used in veterinary surgery:

  1. Linear Incisions: Straight cuts, often used in spay/neuter procedures.

  2. Elliptical Incisions: Used for removing tumors or growths.

  3. Laparoscopic Incisions: Small, minimally invasive cuts used in laparoscopic surgeries.

Types of Sutures

Sutures, or stitches, are used to close surgical incisions. There are different types of sutures, each serving a specific purpose:

Internal Stitches (Absorbable)

Internal stitches are placed beneath the skin and are typically made from materials that dissolve over time, such as:

  • Polyglycolic Acid: Absorbs over a few weeks.

  • Polydioxanone: Absorbs over several months.

  • Catgut: Absorbs quickly, often used in mucosal tissues.

These sutures are beneficial because they don't require removal, reducing stress on your pet.

External Stitches (Non-Absorbable)

External stitches are placed on the outside of the skin and need to be removed once the incision has healed. Common materials include:

  • Nylon: Strong and commonly used for skin closures.

  • Polypropylene: Less reactive, used in areas where minimal inflammation is desired.

  • Silk: Occasionally used for external closures, though less common due to its tendency to cause inflammation.


Surgical staples are made of stainless steel and are used to quickly close incisions, particularly in large or high-tension areas. They need to be removed once healing is complete, typically 10-14 days post-surgery.

Tissue Glue

Tissue glue, also known as liquid stitches, is used for small incisions or in combination with other closure methods. It creates a waterproof barrier and does not need to be removed.

Healing Timeline and Stages

Healing is a multi-stage process, and understanding each stage can help you monitor your pet’s recovery effectively:

Inflammation Stage

Duration: Immediately post-surgery to a few days.

  • Symptoms: Redness, swelling, and a small amount of clear or slightly bloody discharge.

  • Care Tips: Keep the area clean and dry, and monitor for excessive redness or swelling.

Repair Stage

Duration: 4-6 days post-surgery to 2-3 weeks.

  • Symptoms: Formation of granulation tissue, reduced redness, and minimal discharge.

  • Care Tips: Continue to prevent your pet from licking or scratching the incision. Monitor for any signs of infection.

Maturation Stage

Duration: Several weeks to months post-surgery.

  • Symptoms: Development of scar tissue, resolution of redness and swelling.

  • Care Tips: Ensure your pet does not engage in activities that could disrupt the healing process. Regular vet check-ups are essential.

How to Care for Your Pet’s Incision Site

Proper care of the incision site is crucial for preventing complications and ensuring a smooth recovery:

Restrict Your Pet’s Activity

Limiting your pet's activity is crucial to prevent stress on the incision site:

  • Leash Walks Only: No running, jumping, or rough play.

  • Crate Rest: For pets prone to overexertion.

  • Quiet Environment: Minimize excitement and stress.

Keep the Cone (Elizabethan Collar) on Your Pet

The cone prevents your pet from licking or chewing the incision, which can lead to infection or suture removal:

  • Proper Fit: Ensure the cone fits snugly but comfortably.

  • Alternatives: Soft cones or recovery suits can be used if the traditional cone is too cumbersome.

Follow Your Vet’s Instructions for Treating the Area

Adhere strictly to any specific care instructions provided by your veterinarian, which may include:

  • Cleaning Protocols: Using prescribed solutions to clean the incision.

  • Medications: Applying topical ointments or giving oral medications as directed.

Give Your Pet Any Prescribed Medications

Medications are often prescribed to manage pain and prevent infection:

  • Pain Relievers: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or other pain medications.

  • Antibiotics: To prevent or treat infections.

  • Anti-Inflammatories: To reduce swelling and discomfort.

Check Your Pet’s Stitches Daily for Signs of Infection or Other Issues

Daily monitoring is essential to catch any issues early:

  • Signs of Infection: Redness, swelling, discharge, foul odor.

  • Suture Integrity: Ensure stitches are intact and not causing irritation.

  • Behavioral Changes: Watch for signs of pain or discomfort.

Common Complications and How to Address Them


Infections can occur if bacteria enter the incision site. Signs include:

  • Increased Redness and Swelling: Beyond the initial post-surgery period.

  • Discharge: Yellow, green, or foul-smelling discharge.

  • Pain: Excessive pain or sensitivity around the incision.

Action Steps:

  • Contact Your Vet: Immediately for advice.

  • Clean the Area: As directed by your vet.

  • Antibiotics: Follow the prescribed course.

Openings or Missing Stitches

Stitches can come undone, causing the incision to open:

  • Signs: Visible gaps, exposed tissue.

  • Causes: Excessive activity, licking, or chewing.

Action Steps:

  • Keep the Area Clean: Prevent further contamination.

  • Use a Cone: To stop your pet from further interfering.

  • Visit the Vet: For possible re-suturing.

Suture Reactions

Some pets may react to the suture material:

  • Signs: Swelling, redness, discharge weeks after surgery.

  • Causes: Immune reaction to absorbable sutures.

Action Steps:

  • Vet Visit: For assessment and possible removal of the suture material.

  • Medication: Anti-inflammatory or antibiotic treatment.

Long-Term Recovery Tips

Regular Veterinary Check-Ups

Regular vet visits are crucial to monitor your pet’s recovery:

  • Schedule: Follow the recommended schedule for re-checks.

  • Discuss: Any concerns or abnormalities with your vet.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle aids in recovery:

  • Diet: Provide a balanced diet rich in nutrients.

  • Exercise: Gradual reintroduction to normal activity levels.

  • Mental Stimulation: Keep your pet mentally engaged with safe activities.

Monitor for Long-Term Complications

Some complications may arise long after the initial healing period:

  • Scar Tissue: Can cause stiffness or discomfort.

  • Chronic Pain: May require ongoing management.

  • Recurrence of Original Issue: Be vigilant for signs of the initial problem reoccurring.

The Emotional Aspect of Pet Recovery

Caring for a pet post-surgery can be emotionally taxing:

Understanding Pet Emotions

Pets may experience anxiety, confusion, or discomfort during recovery:

  • Signs of Stress: Whining, restlessness, changes in appetite.

  • Comforting Your Pet: Spend extra time with them, provide comfort items.

Managing Your Own Emotions

It’s natural to feel worried or stressed about your pet’s recovery:

  • Stay Informed: Knowledge about the healing process can reduce anxiety.

  • Support System: Don’t hesitate to seek support from your vet, family, or pet care community.

Special Considerations for Different Types of Surgeries


Routine but significant surgeries:

  • Incision Site: Abdominal for spaying, scrotal for neutering.

  • Recovery Tips: Avoid jumping or running, monitor for swelling or discharge.

Orthopedic Surgeries

Such as cruciate ligament repair or hip replacement:

  • Incision Site: Often larger and more complex.

  • Recovery Tips: Strict activity restriction, physical therapy as recommended.

Tumor Removal

Depending on the location and size of the tumor:

  • Incision Site: Can vary greatly.

  • Recovery Tips: Monitor for recurrence, ensure complete healing.

Case Studies and Examples

Case Study 1: Bella’s Spay Surgery

Bella, a 2-year-old Labrador Retriever, underwent spay surgery. Her owner followed all post-op instructions meticulously:

  • Initial Days: Bella wore a cone and was restricted to leash walks.

  • Complication: On day 5, slight redness and swelling appeared.

  • Action: The owner contacted the vet, who prescribed a topical antibiotic.

  • Outcome: Bella’s incision healed perfectly by day 14.

Case Study 2: Max’s Cruciate Ligament Repair

Max, a 5-year-old German Shepherd, had cruciate ligament repair:

  • Initial Days: Max was kept in a crate with minimal movement.

  • Complication: By week 2, he showed signs of discomfort and swelling.

  • Action: The vet prescribed additional anti-inflammatory medication.

  • Outcome: Max’s mobility improved significantly over the next few weeks with physical therapy.

Case Study 3: Daisy’s Tumor Removal

Daisy, an 8-year-old Beagle, had a benign tumor removed from her side:

  • Initial Days: Daisy’s activity was limited, and she wore a recovery suit.

  • Complication: On day 10, Daisy developed a slight infection at the incision site.

  • Action: Antibiotics were prescribed, and the owner cleaned the site daily.

  • Outcome: Daisy made a full recovery with no recurrence of the tumor.


Ensuring a smooth recovery for your pet after surgery involves diligent monitoring and care. Understanding the types of sutures, the healing stages, and potential complications can empower you to provide the best care possible. Remember, always follow your veterinarian's advice and don't hesitate to seek help if you notice anything unusual. Your vigilance and care are key to your pet’s swift and complete recovery.

By adhering to these guidelines and tips, you can help ensure that your furry friend heals properly and comfortably, returning to their happy and healthy self as soon as possible.


Appendix A: Glossary of Terms

  • Sutures: Stitches used to close a wound or surgical incision.

  • Absorbable Sutures: Stitches that dissolve over time and do not need to be removed.

  • Non-Absorbable Sutures: Stitches that need to be removed once the wound has healed.

  • Staples: Surgical steel clips used to close wounds quickly.

  • Tissue Glue: Adhesive used to close small incisions.

  • Inflammation Stage: The initial stage of wound healing.

  • Repair Stage: The stage where new tissue forms to close the wound.

  • Maturation Stage: The final stage where scar tissue forms and strengthens.

Appendix B: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. How often should I check my pet’s stitches?

  • Check your pet’s stitches at least twice a day for any signs of complications.

  1. What should I do if my pet’s stitches come out?

  • Contact your veterinarian immediately for advice and possible re-suturing.

  1. Can my pet lick their incision?

  • No, licking can introduce bacteria and cause infection. Use a cone or recovery suit to prevent this.

  1. How long does it take for stitches to dissolve?

  • Absorbable sutures typically dissolve within a few weeks to months, depending on the material.

  1. What if my pet seems in pain after surgery?

  • Consult your veterinarian. Pain medication may be necessary to manage their discomfort.

By keeping these FAQs and guidelines in mind, you can help ensure your pet’s recovery process is smooth and complication-free.


This comprehensive guide should help you manage your pet’s post-surgery recovery with confidence and care, ensuring their health and happiness in the long term.


to Check Your Pet’s Stitches After Surgery
How to Check Your Pet’s Stitches After Surgery


Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page