Dog in Stitches August 16, 2015 10:27

Recently, Jake our 6 year old lab mix had to undergo surgery to remove and test a couple of lumps.  Very happy to announce that the tests came back negative for anything serious.  However, the incision / stitches on the back of his leg have been a struggle to manage.  We learned some very good lessons and a few tricks that have allowed us to get through the worst of it and we would like to share those here so that someone may benefit from our experience.  

Like many dogs, Jake is intelligent and energetic. We knew keeping him somewhat subdued for 10-14 straight days to allow his cut to heal wasn't going to be easy.  We weren't prepared or expecting the challenge we were about to face. We were told to make him wear an e-collar (lamp shade) when we couldn't supervise him.  Well, in less than 2 days with a few minutes of no supervision, he managed to bite away at his stitches creating a huge opening in his incision.  It literally took only a few minutes of looking away and he went chomping away at it opening up a 1/2 inch gap in his stiches.  We immediately regretted not leaving his collar on 100% of the time. 

We took him back to the vet to get stitched back up but to our surprise, the vet told us to just keep it clean and put some anti-microbial SSD cream on it.  Somewhat pleased Jake didn't have to endure more pokes, we left and were determined to protect his wound.  A couple of days later, while wearing his e-collar, he managed to work around it by tucking it under his leg and contorting his body around to reach his cut.  His incision was now 1/2 way open at about an inch long.  Good grief.  Now it looked absolutely horrible and we scheduled another appointment with the vet.  Meanwhile we were having to play medic at home with regular bandage replacements and open wound washings with Dawn soap followed by SSD treatment and bandaging.

Back at the vet and to our surprise they didn't jump to the task of stitching him back up.  Instead we were told we had two options:  A) Leave it open and let it heal very slowly for likely 4 weeks or B) put him under sedation and close it back up.  You probably wonder why they didn't just sew it back up.  We were wondering the same thing. Turns out, they said there was some chance of an infection being there and if closed up it would create a very bad internal infection.  With some consideration, knowing the cut looked clean with all the attention we had been giving it, we opted to schedule surgery a couple of days later to allow us to get some antibiotics in his system first.  We would be rolling dice either way and I liked our chances with sewing it back up with 2 weeks to heal versus a month or more of an open wound.  We knew we could monitor the cut for infection and if need be open it back up for treatment.  By the time we made it in for his re-stitch, the entire incision was wide-open at about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide.

We are now one day post-surgery and we are doing everything we can to prevent him from opening up these stiches while also keeping him as comfortable as possible during these trying times. We have a donut-style inflatable collar AND a lamp shade-style e-collar on him to make sure he can't tear these stitches up. The inflatable donut helps to keep the e-collar fully extended outward while providing a softer resting area for his neck.  We also put him into some toddler leggings to help keep bugs and debris off of his cut. Here are a few pictures of the poor pitiful pup.

 

He looks so cute with his turquoise pants on.

Here are a few things we learned from this experience that might help out anyone who is scheduled to look after a pet getting stitches.  

  • An e-collar is never too big but easily too small to do the job.
  • There are a variety of e-collars to choose from. Most important to us was the quality of fasteners. The metal snap on button-type did not hold up as well as the plastic snap-through fasteners.  Your dog will likely knock into stuff and the button-type simply doesn't seem to stay snapped in place. The plastic fasteners punch through a pre-formed hole and are very secure once in place.  There are also the inflatable donut collars which are nice.  As we said, we had to use both at the same time on Jake. 
  • As an extra measure of protection, purchase toddler pants.  We found some very comfortable leggings for Jake at Walmart and cut a small hole for his tail.  This protected his cut from debris and insects when outside.    
  • Crate training really comes in handy during these times.  Jake felt at ease in his crate and it stood to reason since most animals feel more vulnerable when injured much less wearing a large contraption on their heads.  The crate also provided some barriers to movement with the collar on that helps prevent him from sneaking a bite. 
  • Be careful anytime you are around an injured animal. They can and will bite you out of fear.

Well, that's a lot of discussion about stitches and e-collars.  We hope someone can benefit from our experience with Jake. Just be patient and know that no matter what, it's best to suffer through a week or so of e-collar confinement than the alternative.  Lesson learned. Now it's time to prepare for football season. Jake and the crew will be taking some road trips to visit some college stadiums around the country. Stay tuned for these and other stories by subscribing to our blog.

Game Day Dogs