Surgical Wound Closure in Cats Following Spaying

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Spaying is the most common surgery performed on female felines, and most cats are pretty much back to normal within a few days after the operation. Even if your cat doesn't behave as if she's just been through major surgery, you must keep an eye on the incision, the site where the wound was closed. Your vet will tell you whether or not you must bring Kitty back to have sutures removed.

A close-up of stitches on a cat after surgery.
(Steven Heap/iStock/Getty Images)

Spaying is the term used for animal ovariohysterectomy, or removal of the ovaries and uterus. The cat receives general anesthesia, and the vet performs the surgery by making an incision in the abdomen's midline. After removal of the organs, she sutures the incision closed with either skin or buried stitches or staples. The vet closes the incision in several layers. Abdominal muscles, sub-skin tissue and the actual skin are often closed separately. These internal stitches eventually absorb inside the animals, with the outer layer held together with surgical glue.

If your cat received skin stitches to close the incision, your vet probably will tell you to bring her back for a checkup within a week to 10 days post-surgery. The same holds true if staples were used for incision closure. The skin sutures and staples generally are removed by the vet at that time. Although it may be less convenient for you to bring your cat back to the vet, it's a good opportunity for your vet to look over Kitty and ensure she's recovering well.

Intradermal, or buried stitches, don't require a return visit to the vet for removal. Whether or not a vet uses buried or standard skin stitches or staples depends on the practice. Veterinarians who normally use the other methods usually opt for buried stitches in the case of feral cats. Use of internal stitches is quite common in spay/neuter facilities, rather than private veterinarians. With buried stitches, the cat can't physically pull out any material.

Most cats recover well from spay surgery, but if there are complications, they often revolve around the suture site. While mild swelling can occur for up to a few weeks after the surgery, any kind of drainage emanating from the site is not normal and should be checked by a vet immediately. So should excess swelling or redness. Of course, if the incision opens, you must bring your cat to your vet or an emergency veterinary hospital. Rarely, a cat may suffer an allergic reaction to the suture material. The reaction can appear weeks after the operation, resulting in draining wounds. Your vet might have to perform a second surgery to remove the offending material.

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