What To Do If Your Pet’s Stitches Are Not Visible After Surgery?

The recovery phase begins after your pet or feline has undergone surgery. The care of the incision is a major factor in your pet’s healing. Ask your veterinarian or the veterinary staff when you collect your pet to show you their incision.

You can then compare the two pictures to see if anything looks out of place. To track healing, take a photo of the incision the first day and then every day thereafter.

You will be given instructions by the veterinary staff on how to discharge your pet, including restrictions to their activity and when they should return to have a recheck. They may also tell you if or when sutures need to be removed.

Your veterinarian might have closed your pet’s incision with a variety of different products, depending on where and what type of incision it was. These may include absorbable or non-absorbable stitches, tissue glue, staples or staplers. Ask your veterinarian which suture type was used, so that you know what to look out for and expect during the recovery.

Sutures Types

Absorbable Internal Stitches

The stitches are placed under the skin. The stitches are absorbable (in general), meaning they will dissolve over time. Internal stitches don’t need to be taken out unless complications arise.

You should consult your vet if you see visible stitching or skin openings.

External Stitches

These stitches are applied to the outer skin. After the wound has healed, usually 10-14 days following surgery, these stitches must be removed. The incision will be assessed by a veterinary professional to make sure it is fully healed.


The surgical staples used in surgery are usually made of surgical steel. They are placed on the outside layer of an incision. The staples provide a quick and easy way to seal a section of the incision. Once healing has been completed, usually 10-14 days following surgery, staples are removed. The removal of staples requires the use of a clamp designed for staple removal. The removal of staples in surgery is as painless and easy as that of sutures.


The tissue glue (also known as liquid stitches) can be used to seal a small cut or to add to a bigger one. The glue does not have to be removed.

The Healing Process and Timeline

Incisions heal in three phases: inflammation, healing, and maturation.

Inflammation Stage

The inflammation begins immediately following the incision. In order to stop bleeding, the body begins to encourage blood clots along the edges of the wound. White blood cells are then released into the wound area, which helps to prevent infection.

In this stage, the incision may appear pink or reddish. There may also be some bruising. In the early stages, there may be a small amount of bloody or clear discharge.

Repair Stage

Repair (also called proliferation) begins approximately 4 to 6 days following surgery. It continues for another 1 to 2 weeks. Cells in the area of the incision divide in order to repair damaged tissue. The cells also create new tissue, called granulation tissue, that closes over the incision.

Incisions should have a normal skin tone or a light pink color, with minimal or no bruising. The scabbing and discharge should be very minimal.

The Maturation stage

The maturation process occurs several weeks after the surgery when collagen and granulation tissues are converted into scar tissue. The new scar tissue can be thin, fragile, and take several weeks to become stronger.

The skin around the incision should look normal. It can take 3 months for hair to begin to regrow.

What to do with the Incision on Your Pet

Follow your vet’s instructions after surgery. Here are some of the common suture guidelines:

Restriction of Your Pets’ Activity

After surgery, most pets require some sort of restriction in their activity. Your pet should take it easy during the healing period of 10-14 days for most incisions. Activities restrictions can range from strict rest in a crate to only allowing leash-only walks. Incisions that are too active can cause delayed healing, swelling, accumulation of fluid in the area, and premature breakdown of stitches.

Keep Your Pet’s Elizabethan Collar (Cone)

If your pet’s sutures are in a place where they can chew or lick, then you may recommend that they wear a cone, also called an Elizabethan collar, or a href=”https://www.chewy.com/b/recovery-cones-collars,apparel-2664?utm_source=petmd.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=dog&ut Your veterinarian may suggest that your pet wears a cone or E-collar if the sutures in their neck are easily accessible.

Your veterinarian might recommend a surgical recover suit, depending on where you are. You may find that other pets will also attempt to lick your incision. You may have to separate the pets or make the one that is licking the incision wear a cone.

You should follow your vet’s instructions for treating the area.

Incisions on pets do not usually require topical treatments. However, you should always keep the incision clean and dry. Follow your vet’s instructions if they tell you to apply medication or clean the incision.

You can give your pet any prescribed medication

During recovery, your veterinarian might prescribe anti-inflammatories or medications for pain to administer to your cat, dog , or both. These medications must be taken as prescribed.

You should check your pet’s stitches daily for signs of infection or other issues.

You can detect any changes in your pet’s wound by monitoring it daily. You may need to check the area more often if your pet is licking or scratching the incision.

All-internal stitching is very common in pets undergoing routine neutering or spaying procedures. Small bumps may appear at the end and beginning of an incision due to the knots that the vet places into the suture. The bumps should disappear over time as the suture material dissolves.

Incision sites can also show signs of bruising. The first 24 hours following surgery, bruising can worsen but then should improve. The bruising will spread and then lighten. Normal for bruises to appear in different shades, from red to purple. If you see new bruises, or if the color of the bruise is changing, contact your vet immediately.

In the early hours following surgery, it is normal to see a small amount of reddish discharge coming from the incision. If the discharge is larger or the color changes to yellow, green, white or dark red, it may indicate an infection. Your pet must be examined immediately if this happens.

Check for these signs every day:


Always take infection at the site of surgery seriously. The following signs are common:

  • Darkness or Redness: skin that is dark pink, red, or darker.
  • Incision swelling: a warm or swollen area surrounding the incision.
  • discharge: clear, bloody, yellow or green
  • Your pet seems rigid, or uncooperative to move
  • A sudden decrease in appetite
  • Diarrhea and vomiting

Missing or damaged stitches

If your pet is overactive or has licked its incision, the sutures may come loose. Contact your vet immediately if you see any loose or untied stitches, or if there are gaps or holes at the site of incision.

Suture reactions with internal sutures

Another issue can appear in pets who had sutures (absorbed) placed inside their body. This may occur weeks or months after the healing of an incision. Suture reactions are what this is. The absorbable suture material is broken down, causing a reaction.

The absorbable suture can cause inflammation of the incision in some pets. It is more likely to happen in the areas where the suture material is concentrated, such as the knots at the top or bottom of an incision.

It may seem like there is just a small bump. However, if the bump becomes swollen or if there are pimples or a bump along the incision, your vet should be consulted.

Many pets need to be kept clean and will take anti-inflammatory medication until the redness or irritation is gone.

If an infection occurs, it is rare that your pet will need antibiotics, or the suture material left in the incision may have to be removed.