My Dog Had Surgery & Has Stitches: Can I Give Him a Bath?

by Naomi Millburn
An Elizabethan collar will help keep your pet's incision site safe.

An Elizabethan collar will help keep your pet's incision site safe.

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When your four-legged buddy comes home from surgery, your task as a responsible owner is to make sure his recovery goes as smoothly as possible. This entails following the veterinarian's instructions to a T. If your dog just had surgery and has stitches over his incisions, keep him away from water for a while.

No Baths During Recovery

After your dog's surgery, the staff at the veterinary clinic should provide you detailed instructions for properly caring for your healing pooch. These guidelines generally include information on everything from feeding to physical activity. They also typically indicate a suitable time for bathing your pet again; if they don't, feel confident enough to ask. The ASPCA urges owners to avoid bathing their post-surgery pets for a minimum of 10 days; other authorities suggest a minimum of 14 days. If you have any specific questions regarding when to bathe your dog after his surgery, consult your veterinarian.

Hazards of Wet Stitches

Getting your pet's stitches wet while he's still recovering from surgery can be dangerous. It can open up his incisions, greatly slowing progress in recovery. Water is capable of making stitches less tight. It's also capable of bringing bacteria into your dog's wounds. Keep your precious pet on the right track to recovery by making sure he's always dry as can be after surgery. Since licking can get your pet's stitches wet, it's important to make sure he refrains from doing so. Elizabethan collars or E-collars, -- neck cones -- which are available at veterinary clinics, can generally prevent dogs from chewing on or licking their incisions. Talk to your veterinarian about buying one of these helpful devices for your healing cutie, and enlist the vet's assistance in fitting the device.

Cleaning Your Pet

Dogs get messy sometimes, whether recovering from surgery or otherwise. If something happens that makes cleaning your pet absolutely vital, consult your vet regarding the matter before you do anything. She might suggest that you clean him using a soap-free shampoo made specifically for canines, for example. If you do use an alternative type of shampoo on your pet, be cautious. Do not get soap or soapless pet cleaner near the incision site.

Minimal Physical Activity

Protecting your dog's stitches during recovery goes beyond just keeping your pooch out of the bathtub and rain. It's also important to help your dog heal by not permitting him to partake in vigorous exercise. Don't allow him to partake in jumping, running, swimming or playing with fellow pets during recovery. These things can lead to problems such as swelling. Your recovering pet can receive exercise, however, by going on brief walks, as long as he's properly leashed at all times. If you have any concerns about your pet's exercise needs and requirements following his surgery, call your veterinarian immediately. Notify your veterinarian as soon as possible if you ever notice any problems with your pet's incision, too, whether swelling, discharge, irritation or anything else out of the ordinary.

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