Your How do you know if your dog needs stitches? Tips and Tricks

When Do a Pet’s Wound Need Stitches?

As a general rule, stitches – technically referred to as sutures – are required when a wound is more than half an inch in diameter. They are also indicated when the wound is located in an area where the skin is mobile and taut (near a joint), resulting in a separation of the wound’s edges.

Stitches are usually left in place for ten to 14 days and serve to hold the edges of a wound together. This promotes healing and prevents further tearing of the skin.

In many cases, several layers of stitches are inserted at various tissue depths to provide increased stability and to more broadly distribute tension at each suture site.

This can be particularly useful in the areas where there’s a great deal of mobility, like near the joints.

Stitches placed below the skin’s surface are of the dissolvable variety and do not require removal.

In addition to larger wounds, stitches are also required in cases where an injury has created a flap of skin and in cases where a region of tissue is hanging or in an abnormal position.

There are a few cases when a veterinarian may decide against inserting stitches. This is especially true in cases where there is a high probability of trapping bacteria under the skin. Stitches here could lead to infections and slower healing.

If a wound is not properly irrigated, disinfected, and sutured within twelve hours, there’s a much higher chance of infection. At this point, a vet may opt to leave the area as-is in order to allow for the necessary drainage.

In instances where stitches are absolutely necessary, it’s common practice to insert a drain that will allow the bacteria to escape, in conjunction with prescribing oral antibiotics.

Your How do you know if your dog needs stitches?

Superficial cuts and scrapes can usually be treated at home. Think of these as the “skinned knees and elbows”—not really a cut, but more an abrasion of skin. Just like cleaning your kid’s knee, treating your dog’s scrape is not very different, except that he is very hairy!! So, steps in taking care of these simple wounds:

Summer is here, and one thing we are sure to see a lot more of at the veterinary hospital are cuts, bites, and wounds. Running through the woods, playing in the river, tussling at the dog park, dogs are like a bunch of rowdy kids, not always aware of their bodies until play time is over.

Deeper cuts should be dealt with by your vet, ideally that day. There are many deeper cuts that we see that we don’t sew up—if the skin edges are close enough and there is not a lot of motion or skin tension, we may just clean it out and let it heal on its own. The key decision with these is whether it is deep enough to warrant an antibiotic or not. Remember, every wound is contaminated. If cleaned thoroughly within a few hours and if not too deep, it may not need antibiotics. However if not dealt with for over 4 hours, if deep, or if difficult to clean all the debris out of it, it may need some vet care for proper cleaning and antibiotics to keep it from getting infected.

• Keep them from licking. Some dogs are totally cool, while others become a neurotic mess and start licking the heck out of any skin wound. They can certainly create a larger problem from their tongue and saliva, so if they are obsessing about it, you may need a cone collar or bandage.

So here you are, on a Saturday afternoon just finishing up a long hike with your family dog, and you notice blood in the back of the car. After making sure the kids are all intact, you examine the dog, who now seems to have lost the invincible forest wolf energy she had just minutes ago, and now looks at you sadly and holds her paw up. You see a deep cut in the pad that at first glance makes you go “ewww.” What do you do? Rush to the veterinary ER? (Of which there are two in Charlottesville, thank goodness!) Clean it and wait until Monday, which is a long 36 hours away? Duct tape?

What to do when you can’t get your dog to the veterinarian

If for some reason you cant take your dog to see a medical professional for minor wounds, provide first aid to your pet by keeping the affected area clean to help prevent possible infections. Stop any bleeding with gentle pressure before flushing the wound with normal saline flush. You can find normal saline in the first-aid aisle of stores, and it may be labeled “wound wash.”

Then, disinfect the wound with an antiseptic thats been diluted, like iodine, but do not use hydrogen peroxide because it can actually slow down the wound-healing process. If your dog is licking or chewing at the wound, theyll need to wear an Elizabethan collar (or possibly wear a T-shirt) to help reduce the risk of infection. If you need to bandage the wound for some reason, keep in mind that any bandage material needs to be changed daily.

Sometimes, pet owners may be on the fence about whether their dogs cut or wound might need stitches or other veterinary treatment. If youre able to have your dog seen by a veterinarian for wound care, that is ideal, as even small bites can become infected. A professional is also the best one to determine if wound closure is needed. If you arent able to take your dog to your DVM, watch for signs of infection, such as foul odor, swelling, and discharge. If your pet licks or chews at the wound, youll need to use an e-collar.

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Lacerations in Dogs

As we mentioned above, depending on the location, cause, and risk of contamination– your pup may require stitches to properly close their wound. If the wound was a ragged laceration, the result of a fight, or a severe puncture, the wound might require stitches to close. We recommend that pet parents never attempt to give your dog– or any animal– stitches. This should be left to trained medical professionals. If the wound does need stitches you should be at the vet already! There, your vet will prepare the wound by disinfecting it. Some wounds will require debridement, and the vet will remove any infected or dead tissue around the wound.

Depending on the severity, your pup might also needed to be put under general anesthesia to close the wound with sutures. Once the wound has been cleaned and closed, your pup may be ready to travel home with you. Be sure to pick up any antibiotics prescribed by the vet as well.

Some wounds cannot be closed with stitches and will need to remain open to heal properly. If this is the case, the vet will thoroughly clean the wound and wrap a bandage around it. This will need to be changed and cleaned daily until your dog starts to heal. Be on the lookout for the formation of abscess or worsening of the infection– and make sure you’re tracking the healing progress of your dog.

When you take your pup home from the vet they may be a little out of it because of the anesthesia. Allow them to get comfortable and return to their full senses. If your dog’s wound was sutured, be sure to keep the bandage on and allow the wound to heal. Check on it often and be sure to follow any advice given to you by the vet– including administering any medicine. If necessary, get your pup a cone to prevent any biting or licking of the wound. You will want to schedule a follow up appointment with the vet to remove stitches and to check on the wound healing progress.

If your dog did not require stitches to close their wound, you will need to make sure that the open wound is kept clean and moist, and that bandages are changed on a regular basis. This allows for new skin to grow and promotes healing in the wound. Continue to administer medicine as instructed by the vet. If there is any drainage– as long as it is clear and does not smell, allow it to drain.

Perhaps most importantly, you can continue to show affection to your dog and make sure they’re as comfortable as possible. Watch the daily progress of the wound, and make sure the inflammation and swelling are going down. Do not let your pup lick the wound– as uncomfortable as it may be– make sure they wear their cone properly.

Your dog may not have as much energy as usual, but that is because they may be in pain. Be patient and allow the wound to heal. It can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months for a wound to fully heal– so make sure not to rush the process.

Your dog will eventually get back to their normal behavior and routines– you’ll be taking them for walks and runs in no time! Just make sure you are attentive and responsible while the wound is healing, and your pup will be happy and healthy and right by your side again.