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What happens if you don't remove stitches?

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  • What happens if you don't remove stitches?

    First, this is totally just idle curiosity. I am NOT planning on not bringing my dog back for a followup or anything like that. I'll explain what made me wonder about it.

    Yesterday my dog got kicked by a new horse we have in. Poor thing wasn't doing anything wrong, just passed behind her and she double-barreled him. It gave him one heck of a sore shoulder and split or cut the skin quite badly. So we took him in for x-rays (fortunately nothing was broken) and stitches, or actually staples.

    As I was picking him up, the vet tech who was checking us out made a point of repeatedly stressing the importance of the followup visit to remove the staples. I made a joke about it and she told me "You'd be surprised how many dogs come in here and get stitches and then never are brought back to have them removed." At the time I was too focused on getting instructions for after care from her to think about it, but it made me wonder...what happens to the poor dogs who need to have stitches taken out but are never brought back to the vet to have it done?

    I'm sure some owners remove actual stitches themselves (I've done it for horses with my vet's blessing), but that doesn't seem so easy with staples. I'm also sure that not all people in my area do that, since the level of care tends to be very poor. So I'm just curious if they work themselves out eventually or what. Does anyone know?

    I know it's an odd question but I couldn't think of where else to ask it and it has been bugging me.
    exploring the relationship between horse and human

  • #2
    Not much, really. Some dogs probably chew them out once the skin is mostly healed and itchy. Some owners pull them (I always do.) Sometimes they're just left in.

    One time I was at the large animal hospital and a splenic entrapment colic came in. The same thing had happened to this horse a year or so ago. She wasn't a surgery candidate this time, but she'd had surgery before. She still had all of her staples. I was floored, but apparently it's not that uncommon.


    • #3
      I dunno. I have a staple remover, its easy. My vet gave it to me when I was nine, I had to use wire snips to take out wire twisted stitches in a cat who had his leg amputated. Nothing fazes you after that.

      I would imagine it could cause quite a mess if not removed.
      "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


      • #4
        Depending on the kind and where they are, the animal may pull them, scratch them off, or the body may make a cyst around them to keep them contained in one place and end up as just one more bump.
        Some times, those bumps migrate, are finally rejected, get to the surface and make a bit of an abscess and the "foreign" material there shows up.

        You may want to run that question by your vet.


        • #5
          Well, pulling stitches isn't hard.
          Snip the knot and pull the thread. I was floored at how easy it was when I had my first set of critters fixed. (But by me holding the critter and the tech pulling the stitches, it was a non-event)


          • #6
            We bought our own staple remover and we actually have our own stapler for stitches. You don't have to be a vet to buy the stuff. We've used it for smallish things that really need staples when we were hours away from vet care (yes, it can happen in the back country). It isn't hard to use. As long as you only do it on your own animals you are okay - ie I'm not a vet and I'm not touching anyone else's animals.


            • #7
              Alagirl - I think she is asking about the metal staples and not the catgut/"string" type.


              • Original Poster

                Thanks for the input guys. I was kind of asking about either, because really...the animal care around here is abysmal and from the way the tech said it, I doubt everyone is removing stitches or staples on their own.

                I didn't realize there was a tool that removed the staples, though it seems obvious in retrospect. It just seems really odd to me to take the initiative and remove stitches yourself without discussing it with the vet, especially because my vet doesn't charge for the followup if it's just to remove them (no complications or anything). I mean, I've removed stitches from many wounds (though obviously not staples!) but I always talk about it with my vet first.
                exploring the relationship between horse and human


                • #9
                  You don't need a special tool to remove staples. I bought some small jewelry wire cutters and santized them. I carefully cut the the center of the staples and use a fork tine to gently pick out each end. Easy peasy. Took me less than 5 minutes, and it saved me another trip into the vet and $70.
                  Foaling Around www.facebook.com/foalingaround
                  Custom Equestrian Items and Bath Products


                  • #10
                    My vet gave me a couple staple removers when I asked, for free.

                    You can also get them from people doctors, as they're disposable in human medicine.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Bells View Post
                      Alagirl - I think she is asking about the metal staples and not the catgut/"string" type.

                      I suppose.
                      It just blew my mind how easily they came out.

                      (but at least the return trip was free!)


                      • #12
                        It's no fun at all if you wait too long to remove the staples. They twist, the skin grows over them, and they can get infected. Basically, they become really hard to get out and the critter doesn't like it one bit. The silly staples are a real pain to twist back around when they get out of place. It goes from being a simple, quick procedure to unfun quickly

                        Glad your dog is ok, and I can betcha it wasn't the $50 weanling that kicked him


                        • #13
                          Good timing on this thread- a friend and I were just talking about this the other day! She got a middle-aged dog from the shelter a few months ago and the other day I was over at her house and the dog was sleeping on his back and the way the sun hit his belly you could see the outline of something under his skin that looked to me like old staples. She has to take him to the vet in a week anyway, so she's going to ask about it then, but it did make me curious!

                          If the staples have been covered with skin and they aren't bothering the dog at all, will they just be left alone? Or is it still generally worth taking them out?
                          Cascadia- OTTB mare. 04/04-05/10
                          If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever


                          • #14
                            Our suture/staple removals are always free. Usually a technician will remove them, and the doctor will assess the incision healing.

                            Usually, nothing will happen. However, I have seen animals come in with abcesses and draining tracts when "years" later the body decides the foreign material must be attacked! Typically though...nothing. Staples are generally better accepted by the body than suture material.


                            • #15
                              We generally remove our own stitches. Staples, I wouldn't be comfortable, I get queasy easily. I can't imagine not removing them though!
                              It's a small world -- unless you gotta walk home.


                              • #16
                                Well, im not a dog, but after I had surgery, one of the staples didnt seem to come out all the way. There was a tiny piece of (hard, heavy duty) wire stuff still stuck in me. You could see it through the skin.

                                Never really bothered me, but about 3 years later, I had a doctor friend dig in a little with tweezers and get it out.
                                Charlie Brown (1994 bay TB X gelding)
                                White Star (2004 grey TB gelding)

                                Mystical Moment, 1977-2010.


                                • Original Poster

                                  Originally posted by FatPalomino View Post
                                  Glad your dog is ok, and I can betcha it wasn't the $50 weanling that kicked him
                                  No, definitely wasn't the $50 weanling. He's too nice to the stupid dogs actually, he kind of plays with Bandit which just encourages the dog. It was a little firecracker of a buckskin mustang thing I have in for a couple of weeks to teach some ground manners. She's tried to kick me too in fact...I wish they were all like Willy!
                                  exploring the relationship between horse and human


                                  • #18
                                    I get dogs in for grooming that still have stitches in on a fairly regular basis.

                                    Usually when I tell the owner that fido still has stitches, so you want to go back and have the vet remove them they give me a blank look.

                                    "But I thought stitches dissolve?" or "What do you mean, they have to be taken out?" are the most common responses.

                                    One lady was SO MAD, cussing and everything, because she SWORE the vet told her the stitches dissolve!! She was going to SUE them for malpractrice! When I asked what vet she gave the name of the same guy I use. I know for a fact you get told there, repeatedly and in great detail, that the animal has stitches, they need to come out, they have a card for you with an appointment already set, stress that this is FREE..etc. This vet does not and never has used dissolving stitches.

                                    I figure it's a lot like when I spend 20 minutes going over that fluffy has to be shaved and why, show picture examples, stress that fluffy will be naked, make them sign a waiver and then at the end of the day they totally jump the shark and start screaming when they pick up their shaved dog because no one EVER told them fluffy was going to be SHAVED!!!!!

                                    People have this amazing ability to only hear what they want.