It's the day after your dog was spayed, and her incision is leaking a bit of blood. While seeing your pet bleed can be disconcerting, it's normal for a dog to experience a bit of blood-laced fluid leaking from an incision for a day or two. But if the seepage lasts longer or the dog stitches are bleeding actively, she should see the vet. She may need an Elizabethan collar and crate rest to promote proper healing of her incision.
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Healing all wounds
All wounds, including incisions, go through four phases of healing, according to Veterinary Partner:
- Inflammation, to control bleeding and kick-start the immune system, which starts immediately.
- Debridement, the formation of pus to ferry debris from the wound, beginning a few hours after the incision is made.
- Repair, the formation of new blood vessels and accumulation of collagen, starting a couple of days after the wound occurs.
- Maturation, the strengthening of the scar tissue, which becomes stronger as nerves and new blood vessels grow, occurring a couple of weeks after the initial incision.
Incision wound edges, such as a surgical opening, are held together with sutures, prompting new skin to form across the margin instead of along the length of the incision. Since there's no gap to fill across the wound, it only takes approximately two weeks for an incision to go through the four healing stages.
Signs of normal incision healing
As your dog's incision heals, watch for normal signs of progress in the first few days after treatment:
- Red and swollen incision edges
- Minor fluid leaking, perhaps tinged with blood
- Mild bruising
- Wound edges not healed together, with a slight gap between the margins.
When dog incisions are leaking
Though it's routine for an incision to ooze blood-tinted fluid, your dog bleeding after surgery intermittently for more than a day is not normal. The incision should not continuously drip or seep blood — or other fluids — at any point in the healing process., says Pet Place. If your dog is bleeding from his incision, he should see the vet. In addition to blood, swelling, unpleasant odor, or very red skin are also signs that a visit to the vet is in order.
Take your dog to the vet if her incision has a gap greater than 1/4-inch wide, is missing sutures, has an unpleasant odor or discharge, or protruding tissue. You should be able to touch her incision without causing her pain. If your dog's wound opened after stitches are removed, the vet should be notified.
Tips to help healing
Your dog's normal day-to-day activities can prompt incision bleeding or other healing complications, notes VCA Hospitals. If he licks or chews his incision or engages in strenuous physical activity such as running or jumping, he can cause the sutures to pull apart, leading to bleeding. Licking the incision can slow healing or introduce infection to the incision site.
If she's licking or biting her wound, use an Elizabethan collar to keep the incision inaccessible. Keeping her on-leash while she's outside will restrict her activity so she doesn't stress the healing site. Taking short walks using a short leash will help ensure the incision doesn't open up. Also, bathing or getting the wound wet should be avoided.
Unless instructed by your veterinarian, do not apply disinfectants, hydrogen peroxide, or alcohol to your dog's wound. Also avoid creams and ointments, unless directed by your vet.
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.