How to Clean and Care for a Dog's Incision

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Many dogs will have surgery at one time in their lives, usually when they are spayed or neutered. Dog owners may be asked to perform routine post-operative care of surgical incisions at home. These incisions require careful handling to prevent infection. Most veterinarians will provide care instructions when the dog is discharged. Contact your vet immediately if the wound starts to smell bad or if you see a discharge.


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Frequently inspect the incision

A surgical incision typically is covered with a bandage to keep it clean. Some surgical sites, such as the head, neck, or upper body, are either difficult to bandage or respond poorly if they are bandaged. These sites typically are left uncovered.

If a wound is left unbandaged, it should be inspected frequently to ensure that no dirt, hair or other debris has entered the incision. A healthy incision should have clean, pink edges that have been drawn together by the sutures. Although a wound less than 48 hours old may be a darker, reddish-pink, it should never appear bright red or irritated.


Bruising surrounding the incision is normal after the first couple of days, according to Woobury Vet Hospital. A small amount of blood seepage is normal for the first day after surgery but is a cause for concern after that period.

Clean the incision

Surgical incisions must remain clean and dry to heal properly. If your dog has a bandaged wound, the bandage should keep it from becoming contaminated. Should an uncovered wound becomes dirty, clean it with a saline solution, although tap water will do in a pinch.


Lavage, the process of using a bulb syringe to apply large amounts of water over a wound, is a gentle and low-pressure manner of cleaning an incision. A Waterpik or similar device produces a higher pressure stream of water that may be more effective in delivering water to clean an incision.

Listen to your veterinarian's advice to determine when lavage is needed and exactly how to perform it on your pet's surgical wound. Avoid bathing your dog until his incision heals. Do not apply any alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, creams, or ointments to the wound unless directed by your vet, advises Michigan Ave Animal Hospital.


Prevent licking and chewing

Sutures or skin can get torn any time your dog mouths his incision as well as soil or damage a bandage. Such activities may introduce bacteria to the wound. Using an Elizabethan collar — also known as a "cone" — to prevent your dog from licking his incision.

Your pet probably won't like the collar, and it has the potential to interfere with eating and drinking, according to There's also a potential for injury when your pet attempts to scoot under or between furniture. Breeds that slobber a lot can also end up getting a collection of drool around their neck that can set the stage for a bacterial infection.


Alternatives to the Elizabethan collar, such as a stiff, plastic neck brace, or a soft e-collar substitute, also can be used. Bitter liquids applied to bandages or a surgical site with can also stop some dogs from using their mouth on the area. However, consult your vet before applying anything to your dog's wound or its covering.

Prevent energetic exercise

Crate rest is best for the first few days after surgery. If he cannot be confined, do not allow him to jump on or off furniture or to run in the yard. Any strenuous activity can pull stitches and cause him pain. Short walks, on a leash, and at a slow pace are acceptable activities for most dogs unless your vet says otherwise.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.