Dog Stitches Not Dissolving: Do They Need Fixing?

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

My friend had her dog stitched up by a vet recently. She was told there were some issues with the stitching and she needed to come back in two weeks.

When she went back, the stitches weren’t dissolved yet. I was with her this whole time and this episode taught us a lesson or two.

If you notice an issue with your dog’s stitches not dissolving whether it is after a spay or neuter operation or something else, this article might just help you out.

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why is my dogs Stitches not dissolving? What's going on?
Dear Dog Owner

What Are Dissolvable Stitches Made of?

In veterinary medicine, polyglactin, polydioxanone, and polypropylene are most frequently utilized.

Vicryl, Monocryl, and PDS II have antibacterial versions available that boost resistance to infection by being coated in triclosan.

When a triclosan-coated suture was used in clean and clean-contaminated surgical wounds, a study comparing suture materials with and without a coating indicated a 30% reduction in post-operative infection.

How to tell if dog stitches are dissolvable?

You might think that it will be tough for an untrained eye to identify one, but you really need not pull your hair out over it.

When I first started training as a vet tech, it took me all of a minute to learn how.

Dissolvable, or absorbable, sutures are often made from synthetic materials which are designed to break down and be absorbed by the body over time.

They typically appear clear, white, or slightly off-white, and their texture is often softer and more pliable than non-dissolvable stitches.

Non-dissolvable sutures, on the other hand, are commonly made of nylon or polypropylene and are often black, blue, or green in color, with a stiffer feel.

How Long Does It Take For Dog Stitches To Dissolve?

The answer to this question depends on several factors.

The first is the type of stitches your vet used.

If they used dissolvable stitches, then you won’t need to take your dog back for another appointment—your vet will just tell you when it’s safe for your dog to go outside and be around other dogs.

In such scenarios, it usually takes up to 60 days for the sutures to be completely absorbed or hydrolyzed, but that does not mean that the wound has not healed.

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The absorbable stitches usually lose their tensile strength after 7 to 10 days, which means your dog’s wound will heal nicely during this time.

In some situations, your doctor might recommend using steri strips for dogs too.

If they used non-dissolvable stitches, however, then the process will be a little more involved as you will need to return to the clinic for removal.

The second factor that determines how long it takes for stitches to dissolve is the size of your dog’s incision.

Smaller incisions generally heal faster than larger ones because there are fewer places where bacteria can get trapped inside (and therefore get infected).

Finally, age matters!

Older dogs tend to heal more slowly than younger ones—but not always!

So if your older dog has been on a prolonged course of antibiotics or steroids before surgery, then they may take longer to heal than expected.

Doggy says, you might like this too: Dog Keeps Sitting After Neutering or Spaying [What Now?]

What Causes Dissolvable Stitches Not To Dissolve?

What Causes Dissolvable Stitches Not To Dissolve

When we go to the vet, we expect our pets to receive professional care and treatment.

Unfortunately, sometimes things don’t turn out as expected (although quite rarely).

Sometimes the stitches aren’t dissolved after surgery, and sometimes they’re left behind.

Here are the likely reasons why the stitches are not dissolving properly:

  • The veterinarian used non-dissolvable sutures. This happens more often than you might think! If your vet used non-dissolvable sutures, your pet will have to go back to the clinic to get them removed, so make sure you understand the post-treatment care plan for your dog well
  • The surgeon used an incorrect type of suture, which can cause skin reactions that inhibit dissolving action from occurring properly (this is more common with humans than dogs)
  • The sutures were placed too close together or too far apart. When veterinarians place dissolvable sutures on an animal’s body, they need to make sure that there is enough space in between them so they don’t get tangled up in each other and form one big knot when they start dissolving after a few days
  • The wound is too deep for the stitches to properly absorb into it. The deeper the cut is, the higher chance there is of complications. For example, if your pet was hit by a car and has a deep laceration that goes all the way down to their bone, it will be much harder for them to heal than if it were just a shallow cut where there wasn’t any muscle or tissue damage
  • Although very unlikely, the environment or equipment was not sterile, causing the wound to not heal properly.

Stitches left behind can lead to infections, abscesses, and other complications. They can also cause pain and discomfort for your pet.

If you notice anything unusual such as changes in your dog’s behavior, signs of discomfort or pain, or swelling of the wounded area, you need to bring your dog back to the vet right away.

Doggy says, read this too: How to Remove Sticky Bandage From My Dog? [Home Remedy]

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What Is the Healing Time for Dog Stitches?

A dog’s wound can typically start to sustain stress and strain after about 10 to 14 days.

For example, a spay or neuter recovery time will take about 2 weeks, although activity should be gradually resumed and you should monitor the wound until your next vet visit.

The type of surgery, the suture material, the rate of suture absorption, and the age and condition of your dog all affect how quickly the wound will heal.

In most cases, stitches are long enough to encourage tissue recovery.

Therefore, whether your dog had staples or absorbable sutures, or both, you must care for the wound well while it heals.

How to Keep Dog Stitches Clean and Free From Infection After Surgery

Dog stitches are very important after surgery because they help keep wounds clean and free from infection. 

Here are some tips for keeping your dog’s stitches clean:

Don’t let them lick or chew at their stitches—this is especially important during the first few days after surgery when there is still a lot of swelling and irritation around the wound site.

  • You can use an Elizabethan collar (also called an E-collar) on your dog while they’re healing—this will keep them from reaching their sutures or licking them off.
  • Keep your dog indoors as much as possible so that they don’t pick up dirt or other contaminants on their paws. If they do get outside, make sure they have access to grassy areas where they can run around and get some exercise without coming into contact with contaminated surfaces like dirt or sand (which could lead to infection).
  • Change their bandages every day (or more frequently if needed) until all sutures are removed
  • You should not try to apply any kind of lotions, ointments, or disinfectants unless instructed to do so by your veterinarian. The use of alcohol and hydrogen peroxide is strictly forbidden since they can harm the tissue and cause unintended damage to your dog. Instead, you can use natural baby wipes or wipes designed for dogs to keep its body clean and fresh.

What Should You Do if You Encounter This Problem?

So what should you do if you notice your dog’s dissolvable stitches are not dissolving?

Here are a couple of tips:

  • Do not attempt to remove them by yourself.
  • Check your dog’s stitches before leaving the clinic/hospital. If they look loose, ask the vet to check them again before you return home
  • Keep track of the date and time of each visit so you can see if the stitches start to dissolve sooner than expected.
  • Don’t hesitate to call your vet if you notice anything unusual. Your vet will be happy to assist you.

What If My Dog’s Stitches Don’t Dissolve?

It’s normal for dog stitches to take a few days to dissolve.

If you find that your dog is still experiencing discomfort or pain after the stitches have been removed, it’s worth talking to your vet about what can be done.

Some dogs may need pain medication and antibiotics to help speed up the healing process.

If you notice that your dog has a fever or seems lethargic, it’s also worth calling your vet for advice on how best to proceed.

I would not recommend that you attempt to remove the stitches on your own as you do not know if the wound has healed properly or if there is an infection in the area.

What is a Suture Reaction?

What is a Suture Reaction?

A dog’s body may occasionally reject stitches rather than absorb them, resulting in swelling and will require a much longer healing time.

This is also known as a suture reaction where the body’s inflammatory is responding to a “foreign substance”.

In almost all cases, localized inflammation will happen, where the body is trying to dissolve, break down, or push out the foreign substance as a response.

During this time, seeing draining tracts, heat, and/or redness is common.

A trip back to the vet is a must.

How to Stop Your Dog From Licking at Stitches and Pulling Them Out?

Dogs can be pretty stubborn when it comes to healing, but that doesn’t mean you should just let them do whatever they want.

If you see your dog licking dissolvable stitches or scratching at them, consider these preventive measures:

  • Put an Elizabethan collar on your dog and make sure they stay in a quiet place while they heal. If your dog is prone to licking its wounds or has an open wound on its face or mouth, then an Elizabethan collar is essential. The E-collar will keep them from licking their injuries, which could lead to infection.
  • Use an anti licking spray to discourage licking and help with healing. The spray typically contains something bitter which makes it very unpleasant for your dog to taste.
  • Dog puzzles and distracting toys can also help with licking. If your dog loves to chew on things, then it may find it hard to resist its wounds in the early stages of healing. Dog puzzles and toys can keep them occupied while they heal.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should I Pull Out Dissolvable Stitches?

The tricky part is knowing if the wound has completely healed, which for most of us can be quite difficult to determine. I would rather wait for the sutures to dissolve on their own rather than risk any potential infection to my dog. 

What To Do If A Dog’s Stitches Come Out?

Check with your veterinarian to discuss whether they want you to bring your dog in for further treatment. You should also keep an eye on the wound and check for signs of infection such as swelling, redness, pus discharge, or fever (103 degrees or higher). If any of these symptoms appear, it is better to head straight to an emergency vet.

Dissolvable Stitch Sticking Out of Incision?

A dissolvable stitch may occasionally protrude from beneath the skin before dissolving entirely. This is not a cause for concern unless the incision has opened, is bleeding, or exhibits signs of infection. Dissolvable sutures are far less likely to cause stitch responses like infection or granulomas than permanent ones are. Additionally, you shouldn’t try to remove them.

Do Vets Use Dissolvable Stitches for Spaying or Neutering?

There is no fixed rule as to which type of stitches should be used to close such a wound, but it is quite common for them to use internal dissolvable stitches. Your vet will be able to share its pros and cons.

What does a healing dog scar look like?

A well-healing incision appears clean, with skin edges touching and normal or slightly pinkish-red coloration. You should expect mild redness to increase initially post-surgery, indicating a normal healing process is happening.

In Conclusion: Dog Stitches Not Dissolving

In the majority of cases, there is really not much you need to be worried about.

Just pay close attention to your dog for the first 10 to 14 days and take good care of the wound, ensuring it stays clean to prevent any infection.

Sudden changes in behavior or fever are alarm bells that you need to take action immediately, but otherwise, your dog’s wound closure should take place nicely on its own soon.

A dog parent’s life is extremely interesting and varied, having to deal with many new situations popping up like your dog eating a towel, or your puppy being a light sleeper, or your Doberman having dandruff.

Hopefully, you can find lots of useful information on our site to help you out!

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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