Last Updated on July 26, 2022 by Rei Garnet
You can stop your rabbit from licking its stitches by using Elizabethan collars, diapers for rabbits, or bandages. As much as possible, you should not use e-collars on your rabbits because they can interfere with your rabbit’s appetite and eating.
Bandages or vet wraps can be used as an alternative to prevent your rabbit from licking its stitches.
But the best move would be to contact your veterinarian if your rabbit is excessively licking its stitches, because most of the time, it’s due to poor surgical technique or inadequate pain medication.
Now that I’ve given you the gist of the article, read on as I explain in more detail how to stop your rabbit from licking their stitches:
What causes your rabbit to lick its stitches?
Licking on a wound is a natural response in rabbits whenever they feel pain in a certain area of their body. So it’s only natural for them to lick their stitches after surgery, after the pain medication has tapered off.
But, if your rabbit is excessively licking its wounds to the point where it’s damaging the wound, there might be a problem.
According to the House Rabbit Society, rabbits that are excessively licking their surgical wounds are likely due to unnecessary pain and discomfort caused by poor surgical technique, inexperienced veterinarians that performed that surgery, or inadequate pain medication.
What would happen if your rabbit licked their stitches?
Letting your rabbit excessively lick their stitches can lead to opening up the incision. If this happens, you would need to bring your rabbit back to your veterinarian to redo the stitches.
This would require them to put your rabbit under anesthesia again to re-close the stitches. So make sure that you prevent your rabbit from licking its stitches excessively.
While rare, your rabbit can also develop antibiotic-associated diarrhea if your veterinarian uses a topical antibiotic on the wound that’s not safe for ingestion.
Should you be concerned if your rabbit is licking its stitches?
According to the BSAVA Manual of Rabbit Medicine, if your rabbit is interfering with the stitches, you should contact your veterinarian for further evaluation of the wound.
Also, it’s best that you don’t let your rabbit lick their stitches at all because your veterinarian might have put some topical antibiotic in your rabbit’s wound.
If your rabbit accidentally licks and digests the antibiotic, it can develop antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
Make sure that you talk to your veterinarian and ask them if the antibiotic they used is safe for ingestion. According to the Textbook of Rabbit Medicine, here are some antibiotics that can be ingested by rabbits:
Finally, letting your rabbit lick its wounds can increase its risk of developing wound infections.
Do you need to take your rabbit to a veterinarian if they are licking their stitches?
Only if they lick it enough that they somehow remove or mess with the stitches. That would require you to take your rabbit to the veterinarian again to redo the stitches.
You should also regularly check your rabbit’s wound to see if it’s clean or if something is wrong. Your rabbit might be signaling to you that something is wrong with the stitches by licking them.
If you notice that there is redness, swelling, discharge, or heat in the wound area, you need to contact your veterinarian for proper advice.
How to stop your rabbit from licking its stitches?
You can stop your rabbit from licking its stitches by using an e-collar or by wrapping your rabbit’s wound with a gauze pad and bandages.
As much as possible, you should avoid using e-collars because they would make it hard for your rabbit to groom themselves and eat their cecotropes.
E-collars can also make a rabbit depressed, which in turn can affect its appetite. Reduced appetite in rabbits is a serious problem that can lead to life-threatening digestive conditions such as GI stasis.
As an alternative, you can try making a soft E-collar. Soft E-collars are more ideal for rabbits because of their flexibility. This would still allow your rabbit to eat properly and reach its cecotropes.
Here’s a great video on how to make a soft Elizabethan collars:
If you really need to stop your rabbit from licking its stitches, try asking your veterinarian for a vet wrap. Veterinary wraps are self-clinging bandages that can be used to stop your rabbit from licking its stitches.
If you can’t get any vet wraps, you can try wrapping your rabbit’s belly with a gauze pad on the incision site, then wrapping a bandage around it. Just make sure that you just wrap it snug enough but not too tight that it would restrict their airflow or blood flow or make your rabbit uncomfortable.
Make sure that you don’t wrap your rabbit’s wound for an extended period of time. Wounds need to breathe in order to heal faster.
Wrapping your rabbit’s wound to prevent them from licking it should only be a temporary solution. Talk to your veterinarian for proper advice if your rabbit is excessively licking its wounds.
Finally, you can try asking your veterinarian if they have a diaper for rabbits like this:
This type of diaper for rabbits should be enough to temporarily prevent them from licking their wounds. Take note, though, that this diaper should only be used temporarily because it could also prevent your rabbit from eating their cecotropes.
Rabbits that are licking their stitches are likely due to poor surgical technique, inadequate pain medication, or unnecessary pain and discomfort.
That’s why you need to first contact your veterinarian if your rabbit is licking its stitches. Using an E-collar to try and stop your rabbit from licking its wounds without the veterinarian’s go signal can lead to dangerous digestive problems.
Veterinarians only use E-collars in extreme circumstances because they could interfere with your rabbit’s appetite and eating.
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