Dr Abbie Tipler, one of our surgeons at Veterinary Specialist Services, explains how to care for a closed-suction drain at home.

The equipment you will need for this is as follows:

  • An alcohol swab or antiseptic solution for cleaning the drain
  • A syringe to measure the fluid protection
  • Disposable gloves

You may also need some betadine ointment and a make-up pad or other dressing, depending on your veterinarian advice. 

The management of a closed-suction drain at home is fairly simple. In the right situation, it can allow for your pet to recover in the comfort of their own home, versus in the hospital.

How to manage a closed suction drain

This process should be undertaken every four hours or three to four times a day. You won't need to continue this process overnight.


  1. Ready the equipment required listed above and put your gloves on.

  2. Unclip the drain from wherever it's been clipped (it may be a harness or a stockinette dressing).

  3. The drain is attached to the skin with a finger trap suture. The first thing you have to do is check the area around the exit site. You should make sure that there isn't a significant amount of redness or pain (some redness is fine and is to be expected.) If there is excessive redness/pain or discharge, call your local VSS for assistance.

  4. Have your container ready to catch the drain's exudate by having it nearby but where it's stable and can't be knocked over.

  5. Empty the drain into the container by taking the lid off the connector and squeezing the drainer.

  6. Once the drain is clear, give the connector a wipe with your sterilising swab.

  7. Ensure that there is negative pressure being applied by keeping the container squeezed and closing the lid.

  8. The container should stay in this shape and not fill back with air. If it does not, the lid may not be on securely or there may be a leak somewhere in the system and the drain won't function properly. If there's a leak in the system, call your local VSS.

  9. Give the drain a wipe down with your sterilising swab and dispose of the swab immediately.

  10. Re-clip the drain out of reach of your dog so that they don't scratch or chew it.

  11. Finally, you may need to put a covering on the drain (those shown in the video are small make-up pads with a hole cut in the middle). You can put it around the drain exit site using a small bit of sticky dressing.

Measuring the drain exudate:

Now that you have your drained exudate, you will need to measure it for your vet. Simply use the provided measuring syringe and flick out the air bubbles. Read the measured amount as accurately as you can (it doesn't need to be exact) and make note of it.

Your vet wants to know how much exudate the drain is producing every hour. So, if your last drain was four hours ago, you would divide the current measured exudate by four. To keep it simple, make note of your draining times and the exudate measurements removed.

Once your exudate's measurements are sitting at around 0.2 mils per kilogram per hour, then we'll begin considering removing the drain.

If you have any questions regarding this process or how your pet is progressing, please contact your local VSS clinic.

Please note that:

If your dog can't resist trying to chew or scratch at the drain, an Elizabethan head collar may be needed.

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