Incision Bleeding in Dogs

By Betty Lewis

It's normal for a dog to experience a bit of blood-laced fluid leaking from his incision for a day or two. However, if the seepage lasts beyond a day or he's actively bleeding from his incision, he should see the vet. He may need an Elizabethan collar and crate rest to promote proper healing of his incision.

Healing All Wounds

All wounds, including incisions, go through four phases of healing:

  • 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 margins, 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.

Incision Bleeding

Though it's routine for an incision to ooze blood-tinted fluid, intermittent blood seepage 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. If your dog is bleeding from his incision, he should see the vet.

Take your dog to the vet if his 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 his incision without causing him pain.

Healing Help

Your dog's normal day-to-day activities can prompt incision bleeding or other healing complications. 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 he's tending to his wound, use an Elizabethan collar to keep the incision inaccessible. Keeping him on-leash while he's outside will restrict his activity so he doesn't stress the healing site.

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.