Dog Dissolvable Stitches Not Dissolving! Dire Situation?

We all love our pets, and we want them to be comfortable and well taken care of at all times.

That being said, when they get surgery they may have to receive stitches in order to close a wound, an opening from surgery, or other such issues.

When our pets do not heal the way that we want them to, or when the recovery does not go exactly to plan, it can be a difficult thing to deal with and can cause many doubts and worries to creep into our mind.

Recently, I’ve had just this same thing happen to my poor pup Maximus. 

Here’s the backstory: Not being content with having already torn one CCL, he went ahead and tore the other one too. One surgical procedure, an overnight vet hospital stay, and $6000 later, Max is safely back at home and has been recovering nicely over the past couple of weeks. 

However, one thing I’ve noticed after this period of time is that his stitches didn’t seem to be dissolving! Naturally, that sent the paranoid pet parent in me down a rabbit hole of internet research. Luckily, I was able to find the answer I was looking for, and now I can help you do the same 🙂

So, if you find that your dog’s dissolvable stitches are not disintegrating as they should as well- don’t fret! I’m here to help, and in this article we’ll talk about the potential reasons as to why this may happen- and what to do about it when it does!

What Causes Dissolvable Stitches Not To Dissolve?

Max leg stitches closeup
Max’s knee stitches, close-up

There are a few different reasons as to why your dog’s stitches may not be breaking down at the rate that you want them or expect them to.

The first is that different stitches take different amounts of time to dissolve.

For instance, some stitches will melt down in two weeks, while others will take four weeks, or six weeks– and so on.

Some types of stitches diffuse in a matter of weeks, while others are designed to stay in place much longer and may even take months to dissolve!

Therefore, the first thing that you should do is to take the time to talk with your vet about how long you should wait before you become concerned about the stitches not dissolving.

The location of the stitches can also affect how quickly they are going to dissolve.

If they are in an area where your pet can access and lick them, they may liquefy faster or may even be pulled out by your pet!

However, if they are instead in an area that does not get wet and which your pet cannot reach, they may take a bit longer to solvate.

Also, what you put on them may be affecting how long they are taking to dissolve.

Unless otherwise instructed, you should not be putting any dressing or ointment on the wound so that it has a chance to heal naturally. Putting ointment or dressing on the stitches may make them take longer to break down.

Finally, the size of the stitches can also affect how long they take to break down. Thicker stitches that are larger are going to take longer to dissolve than stitches that are smaller and thinner.

Your vet should be taking the time to discuss the procedure, making sure that you know what it all entails.

The discussion should involve an indication as to how long it is going to take to dissolve them, and the type of stitches that are going to be used so that you are prepared for the duration of which they remain.

How Long Does It Take For Dog Stitches To Dissolve?

Surgery stitches on dog stomach

This is a question that relates directly to the type of stitches and their placement.

Most dissolvable stitches break down in two to three weeks.

These stitches are designed to be minimally invasive and to be in place just long enough for the two pieces of skin to grow back together and start to heal on their own.

They are obviously not meant to be a permanent solution or to stay in place forever. These stitches are designed to disintegrate automatically so that your pet does not have to go back to the vet for stitch removal!

Different thicknesses, brands, and materials of stitches are all going to dissolve at different rates. Your best bet is to talk to your vet and find out exactly what to look for and when to expect the stitches to start dissolving.

There are a few different brands of dissolvable stitches that are made of different materials, and which all eliminate at different rates.

These stitches are made of sterile materials that are designed to break down and be absorbed into the skin. They are made of things like polydioxanone, polyglycolic acid, and polylactic acids that are all going to break down and disappear into the skin.

There are a few different situations in particular where the stitches may take longer to diffuse. These include:

  • Where the vet has used very large stitches;
  • Where the surgery was more intense and the stitches need to stay in place for a longer period;
  • Where the material used was stronger.

These are all factors that are going to affect how quickly the stitches dissolve and are absorbed into the body.

It is also important to take the dog itself into account as well. If the dog in question is very active and gets up moving pretty soon after a surgery, the stitches are going to dissolve faster than on a dog that does get up and move about excessively during recovery.

It is important that you pay attention to what the incision looks like and to how your dog is acting before you make any rash decisions about attempting to do any sort of treatment on your own. When in doubt, it’s always a good move to consult your vet!

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

Max leg shaved after ACL surgery
My poor boy Max with a Viking haircut on his leg 🙁 recovering well though!

Any pet owner would surely be worried if they were told by their vet that the stitches from their dog’s procedure were going to dissolve in due time- and yet they do not!

The main issue with stitches not dissolving is the increased risk of infection and irritation that may result if they are not disintegrating at the rate that they should be.

So, what should you do?

For starters, you should take a look at the incision itself. If the incision is still clean, and the stitches (nor the incision site) do not appear to be infected or irritated, you should simply keep an eye on it and wait a little bit longer.

It is not out of the ordinary for these stitches to take up to a month or more to dissolve.

If the incision still looks good and your pet is acting normally, the best course of action is to wait a little longer and see if the stitches will break down on their own.

It is not a terrible thing to have to wait a little longer, especially if there are no other issues your pet is still acting normally!

If, however, your pet appears sick, is looking lethargic, or has a clear fever, and you suspect that an infection at the incision site may be the reason, it is extremely important to assess the situation promptly.

Your first course of action should never be to panic or to attempt to medicate your dog by yourself!

Remember, as we discussed above: There could be any number of reasons that the stitches are not disintegrating as they should.

Firstly, take the time to watch your pet and note the exact problems that are occurring. It goes without saying that if they are feeling sick and the stitches are causing an infection, they will likely act differently!

If you are scared that something is wrong and if your pet is obviously unwell, you should certainly then call your vet and see if they want you to bring your pet in.

In some cases, they may simply want you to observe for a bit longer and see how the dog acts.

In other scenarios, you may be advised to take your dog in so that the vet can inspect the site and see if there is anything that they can or want to do- such as provide antiseptic ointments or antibiotics.

If the incision site is red, swollen, hot to the touch, has pus coming out of it or otherwise appears to be infected, take your pet to the vet immediately to have the wound looked at.

In the event that the incision is infected, your vet is likely going to remove the stitches, clean the wound and administer antibiotics to help get rid of the infection so that your pet can begin to heal again.

The opinion of a veterinary professional is always going to be your best bet when you want to be certain that your pet is healthy, and that the stitches won’t cause an ongoing problem.

In Summary

Max with cone on
The best fluffy boy waiting patiently for his leg to heal so that he can go on adventures again!

When you next encounter a case of dog dissolvable stitches not dissolving as quickly as they should, remember to think back to this article.

(Better yet, visit the site again!)

Here’s the golden rule: If the stitches aren’t breaking down but the incision site appears no worse for wear (no sign of infection, swelling, or irritation), then there likely isn’t anything for you to worry about!

Dissolvable stitches can come in a large variety of sizes, materials, and strengths, so they all disintegrate within slightly different timeframes. Some can take a week, while others may take a month- or more.

If however your dog is looking a little under the weather and the wound area isn’t healing so nicely, it may be time to pay a visit to your vet.

Even then, you don’t have to be too concerned.

In the worst case scenario, the stitches may have become infected. In that case, your vet can take them out, clean the wound, and administer the right medication (such as antibiotics) to get your pet back feeling good again.

On the other hand, the vet may find that there is really nothing wrong and you can simply take your pet home and await the stitches’ dissolution.

After all, the stitches are designed to dissolve- and odds are that they are going to dissolve eventually even if you think that they are not. Time and patience is all you need in the end!

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