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A dog pulling out hair, itching, or licking stitches or an incision site is common after surgery. After the anesthesia and pain medication wears off after surgery, it's common for dogs to want to soothe themselves the only way they know how: by scratching or licking. That can be a problem, however, as scratching can pull out stitches, and licking can irritate already-sensitive skin.
Dog itchy after surgery
Just as in humans, as a wound heals, it is natural for the skin to become itchy. VCA Hospitals says dogs are likely to instinctively try to clean their wound by licking it or chewing at the incision site. Some people believe that dogs should be allowed to lick themselves because their saliva encourages healing, but this is a myth.
Chewing on or scratching an incision can pull out stitches or introduce an infection, which can slow down healing. An Elizabethan collar is a common way to prevent licking and chewing because the large collar doesn't allow your dog's mouth to reach his skin. It may seem cumbersome, but Vetwest Animal Hospital says most dogs get used to it after a day or two. If you do use a collar, don't take it off unless your dog is fully supervised because it only takes a few seconds of chewing for a dog to damage the surgery site.
Aloe vera on dog stitches
Dogs Naturally discusses using aloe vera on dog stitches and says it is safe to use on dog skin. The coolness of aloe vera can be soothing to your dog, and aloe has been shown to have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Never apply a cream, ointment, disinfectant, or other substance to the incision unless specifically instructed to do so by your veterinarian. So, if you do decide to use aloe vera on your dog's stitches, let you veterinarian know you are using it and monitor the site for any signs that the wound is not responding well to the aloe vera.
Talk to your vet about using an anti-itch cream after surgery. Your vet can give you a prescription or a recommendation for something that might work. The Dolores Animal Hospital maintains a list of human medicines that are suitable for use on animals, and it recommends a few products.
Caladryl can be a soothing topical lotion for pain and itching. Cortaid can work as an anti-itch cream. Desitin can be a soothing ointment.
Care after surgery
General post-surgery care for dogs includes not allowing your dog to run off her leash. Reduce her activity for several days so she doesn't run or jump in a way that can tear out stitches. Avoid long or strenuous walks. Avoid bathing or other activities that would cause the incision to get wet.
The Animal Emergency & Specialty Center says it's not uncommon for vets to recommend that your dog stay in a crate for much of the recovery period. If it is difficult for your pet to be calm and quiet, for instance, or if there are other animals or a lot of activity in your home, it may be best to keep your dog in a separate smaller area of the house to ensure that she can remain calm.
While these activities won't directly reduce your dog's itchy skin, it will help her heal quicker. Look for signs of infection, which include heat, redness, swelling, pain, bruising, oozing, and odors. Surgical sites will need to be closely monitored. Your vet may recommend a follow-up appointment.
Products for itchy dogs
You can ask your vet if you can purchase products designed to combat itchiness in dogs. For instance, you can try Burt's Bees Itch-Soothing Spray, which is free from fragrances, colorants, harsh chemicals, and sulfates. It's made with all natural ingredients such as honeysuckle, which will work to soothe dry itchy skin on your dog. It's pH balanced for dogs of all ages, including puppies, and it will clean and soften your dog's skin as well.
Another good option is Zymox Topical Spray with Hydrocortisone 1.0% for Dogs & Cats. This natural and effective spray can reduce swelling and provide itch relief, which will result in a soothing treatment for your dog. It can also help with first aid care for cuts, wounds, hot spots, and mild skin infections. The enzymes in this spray install a natural protective topical barrier that create an active residual effect. This, in turn, will kill any viruses, fungus, or bacteria on your pup.