How to Prevent a Dog From Chewing on Sutures

by Naomi Millburn
    Bathing is usually a no-no for dogs recovering from surgery.

    Bathing is usually a no-no for dogs recovering from surgery.

    Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

    When your pooch is recovering from any surgical procedure, he might find the presence of skin sutures a little bothersome. This might drive the poor guy to "clean" the location of the sutures via some overzealous chewing and licking actions. Your job as a caring owner is to make sure this doesn't happen.

    During the healing process, your dog might feel uncomfortable because of slight pain and severe itchiness. This pesky itchiness generally arises when fur starts to grow back, as shaving is a standard practice for canine surgeries. His way of handling the itching might be to obsessively chew on his sutures. Not only can this problematic behavior bring upon the risk of infection traveling into his incision, it can tug on the sutures and remove them entirely -- the last things your dog needs while he's healing.

    If your pet undergoes a surgery that involves sutures, the veterinarian might ask you if you want him to wear an E-collar, also frequently referred to as an Elizabethan collar. These sizable cones stop dogs from being able to access their sutures during the recovery process. This, in turn, stops them from being able to chew on them. If your pet doesn't have an E-collar and you catch him chewing his sutures, notify your veterinarian immediately so you can buy him one. Once you arrive at the clinic or hospital, the staff can demonstrate for you how to place it on your dog appropriately and safely. E-collars typically affix to dogs' normal collars.

    Dogs often object to wearing E-collars initially. The cones, after all, are bulky, weird and unfamiliar to them. Many try to take them off. Thankfully, the majority of dogs get used to wearing them pretty quickly. Don't get discouraged if your dog acts frustrated about the E-collar in the beginning, as that's extremely commonplace. Be patient and he'll likely be acting like his old carefree self in no time.

    Avoid constantly removing your dog's E-collar, even if to give him short breaks from wearing it. If you remove it frequently, you give your pet more opportunities to chew on his sutures -- no, thanks. If you turn your head for seemingly a mere instant, that could be sufficient time for your dog to start chewing on his sutures -- and extract them completely. Save yourself -- and your dog -- that unnecessary frustration by keeping the E-collar on as much as possible. In the event that your chew-happy dog manages to actually take his sutures out, call your veterinarian without delay.

    If you've ever heard the idea that canine saliva has antibacterial properties and can speed up the healing process, don't believe it. It simply isn't true, according to veterinarian Cheryl Yuill of VCA Animal Hospitals. By allowing your dog to chew his sutures, you're not doing him any favors. Talk to your vet about getting him that trusty E-collar as soon as possible.

    If your pooch seems especially reluctant to wear an E-collar, don't fret. You can keep his wounds chew-free by putting him in a short-sleeved doggie T-shirt. If you tie the T-shirt at your pet's waist, you can stop him from chewing on the stitches from his surgery. Men's underwear may also be effective for stopping chewing in post-surgery pooches, as long as you make sure the tail goes out the fly. Briefs usually work well for these purposes.

    Another potentially useful solution for protecting sutures involves the use of bitter sprays that are specifically designed to discourage chewing and licking in dogs. If you spray his bandage, the unpleasant flavor might just put your poor pet off the whole chewing thing. Talk to your veterinarian about protecting the sutures this way before proceeding. Note that the most determined and persistent of canine chewers might not be dissuaded by the bad flavoring of these sprays.

    Photo Credits

    • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.

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