CVMA | Documents | Post Surgery Healing Problems

Post Surgery Healing Problems

December 7, 2012

Sometimes after a surgery is performed, there will be delayed healing.

There can be a number of reasons for this.

  • Inadequate rest: if the animal is too active right after the procedure, the incision is stressed and this brings fluid and inflammation into the area, producing swelling and pain.
  • Suture reaction: some animals may react to the buried sutures with an excessive inflammatory response. If the sutures do not absorb, they may form a ball of inflammatory tissue around them (granuloma) which can sometimes even produce draining tracts out of the incision or favours abscess formation.
  • Infection: if there are germs in the tissues infection can interfere with healing and lead to accelerated breakdown of some types of suture material. Old or dirty wounds, and deep punctures are usually left open to heal by second intention (to granulate in without stitching it closed) for example.
  • Illness in the patient: if a pet undergoes a surgery when blood proteins are low, healing will be slow. Diabetic and Cushing’s afflicted animals are also known to heal more slowly because of the hormone changes in the body. Debilitation / starvation drops the reserves for healing also and can affect proper recovery or tolerance of the procedure itself. A condition causing immune system compromise (like a chronic systemic slow virus such as feline AIDS) or cancer treatments can also lead to poor healing.
  • Licking at the incision will introduce moisture and germs and can lead to poor healing or incision breakdown. It is important that the pet does not work at the stitches and damage the new healing layer.
  • Large or deep surgical procedures place more stress on the tissues and can lead to reduction of the healing process, and if the surgery is in a site where a lot of movement occurs, say, over a joint, that movement can reduce the speed of healing considerably.
    • Application of irritating powders like baby powder/talc and ointments or harsh antiseptics will often reduce healing by causing physical or chemical irritation in the healing zone.

If you see weeping or oozing, swelling, pain, redness or gaps in the incision, seek veterinary consultation right away to help reduce the chance of incision breakdown, a serious complication of poor healing. Make sure you are clear about the care of the area post-operation before you take your pet home!