Removing pet stitches is a simple process. While returning to the veterinarian's office gives the doctor one more chance to look over your pet and make sure the incision or wound is healed properly, you can usually remove the stitches yourself. This can save your pet the stress of a trip to the vet's office, decrease exposure to contagious diseases, and save money. The most important thing to remember is to keep your pet as calm and relaxed as possible, and to be patient and take your time.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Safety scissors
- Cotton balls
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Muzzle, gauze or large towel (optional)
Examine the wound or incision for signs of healing or infection. Sutures should be removed 10 days after they are placed, unless there has been additional trauma to the site. If the incision is gaping or the skin is not fused together, do not remove the stitches. Signs of infection include discharge, foul odour, a thin red line running in any direction away from the site, or excessive redness or swelling. In this case, take your pet to the veterinarian.
Place a muzzle on your animal or wrap it in a towel if you believe it may snap at you or try to bite you. If you don't have a muzzle, wrap a piece of gauze around your pet's muzzle; run both ends behind its ears and tie in a bow.
Take a moment to stroke and talk to your pet, calming it before proceeding. It is much easier to remove sutures from a relaxed, calm animal than an excited or distressed one.
Place your pet in a convenient but secure position. For smaller animals, tuck the head under one arm like a football and hold the head in place gently, but firmly. Place larger animals on their side and lean over them, using one arm across their neck and holding the front feet. Be careful not to choke or injure your pet, but also keep it safely in place. If you have an assistant, have her hold the animal the same way, but using the free hand to hold the rear feet.
Slip the scissors under one of the sutures, and in one gentle motion turn the scissors away from your pet's skin and cut the suture. Repeat this step with the remaining sutures. If your pet is getting anxious or wiggly, give it a short break after all the sutures are cut, then secure it again as you did in steps 2 through 4, and proceed to step 6.
Pull the end of the suture where the knot is located. The suture should slip out of the skin. If not, use tweezers to grasp it and try again. This may be slightly uncomfortable for your pet, but should not be painful. If it is causing pain, the skin may have adhered too tightly to the sutures. Take your pet to the veterinarian for suture removal.
Clean any dried blood or dirt away from the wound or incision using a cotton ball dipped in hydrogen peroxide. Check the incision daily for the next two to three days to make sure your pet has not irritated it by licking or chewing.
Tips and warnings
- Offer your pet a treat or a toy as a distraction while you cut and pull the stitches.
- Consider picking up a pair of suture removal scissors at a medical supply or feed store. The special curved tip makes it easy to get under the sutures.
- Always use safety scissors. Don't risk stabbing yourself or your dog with a pair of pointy scissors.
- Don't fight your animal to remove sutures. You risk damaging the incision and injury to your pet or yourself. Wait for a better time when your pet is less stressed, or let a veterinarian do the job.
- Take your pet back to the vet for stitch removal if it has had a speciality surgery, such as hip or knee surgery. The vet will need not only to check the incision site but also make sure the joint is healing properly
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