Will My Dog’s Stitches Dissolve On Their Own? How To Tell If Stitches Are Dissolvable

What are dissolvable stitches?

Dissolvable or absorbable stitches are sutures made from materials that the body can naturally break down and absorb over time as a wound heals. They are commonly used for internal procedures and incisions where the stitches do not need to be removed later. Once inserted, the stitches provide strength and support to hold the wound edges together while new tissue forms.

Dissolvable sutures are made from natural or synthetic materials that can degrade inside the body, such as purified collagen, polyglycolic acid, polylactic acid, polydioxanone, and caprolactone. As the wound heals, enzymes and fluids in the body break down the stitches into harmless byproducts that get absorbed and eliminated.

The amount of time it takes for dissolvable stitches to fully dissolve depends on the material they are made from. Sutures made from polyglycolic acid may dissolve within 7-14 days, while polylactic acid sutures can take several months. Stitches on the skin’s surface also absorb more quickly than deeper internal sutures. Doctors select an appropriate dissolvable suture material based on the location of the wound and how much time it needs support during healing.

diagram showing stages of dissolving sutures over time

Cited from: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-to-know-absorbable-sutures

When are dissolvable stitches used?

Dissolvable or absorbable stitches are commonly used for many veterinary procedures on dogs. Some of the most common uses include:

Spays and neuters – Disolvable stitches are routinely used internally to close incisions from spay and neuter surgeries (VCA Animal Hospitals). This prevents the need to remove internal sutures.

Wound closures – Vets often opt for dissolvable sutures when closing wounds, lacerations or incisions on dogs. They can provide easier healing as the stitches gradually absorb over time (PetHelpful).

Superficial surgeries – For minor surface surgeries like lump removals or skin growth excisions, vets may use dissolvable stitches externally. This eliminates the need for a follow-up appointment just to remove stitches.

Internal procedures – In addition to spays/neuters, dissolvable sutures are commonly used for closing incisions from other internal surgeries like gastrointestinal, urinary tract, orthopedic and more.

Signs your dog’s stitches are dissolvable

There are a few clues that can help you identify dissolvable stitches in your dog after surgery. The main sign is that the stitches are made of specialized materials designed to dissolve over time, rather than non-dissolvable materials like nylon or silk that require removal.

According to PetMD, common dissolvable stitch materials include polydioxanone, polyglycolic acid, and chromic gut sutures [1]. These materials are absorbable by the body, meaning the stitches will slowly break down and won’t require a follow-up appointment for suture removal.

Dissolvable stitches typically dissolve within 10-14 days after surgery, though some may take longer depending on the location of the incision [2]. As the stitches dissolve, you may notice the sutures looking looser, breaking down, or small pieces coming out of the wound. This is normal and signals the body’s natural absorption process.

So if your vet doesn’t schedule a suture removal appointment and you notice the stitching materials changing over time, chances are your dog has dissolvable sutures that will disappear on their own as the incision heals.

Monitoring dissolving stitches

It’s important to regularly check your dog’s incision site as the stitches dissolve to ensure proper healing. The area should be examined at least 2-3 times per day. Here are some tips for monitoring dissolving stitches:

Look for signs of redness, swelling, discharge, or bleeding around the incision site, as these can indicate infection or other complications. Normal healing may involve some mild inflammation, but excessive redness, heat, or pus signal a problem. Contact your vet if you notice any of these signs.

person checking surgical incision on a dog

Make sure the wound edges stay closed together as the stitches dissolve. Separation of the incision before the deeper tissue has healed can lead to delayed healing. If any gaps open up, contact your vet right away.

Check that your dog is not licking, scratching, or rubbing the incision excessively. Dogs have a tendency to bother their stitches which can disturb healing. Use an Elizabethan collar if needed to prevent irritation of the site.

Look for any broken or chewed out stitches. Some dogs are able to partially open their incisions by licking or chewing. If you notice missing stitches, call your vet to have the wound evaluated.

Monitor for any discharge soaking through the bandage material. Fluid draining from the incision can indicate infection or reaction to the sutures. Notify your vet of any excessive seepage from the site.

Make sure your dog is resting comfortably and not showing signs of pain around the incision. Discomfort indicates potential problems. Alert your vet if your dog seems tender or sore when the area is touched.

Keep a record of how the incision looks each time you check it to note any changes in appearance. Healing should steadily improve day-to-day. Worsening redness, swelling or discharge is cause for concern.

Contact your vet if you have any worries about how the incision is healing. It’s always better to have a concerning wound looked at, just to be safe.

Caring for dissolvable stitches

Caring for dissolvable stitches is an important part of the healing process after your dog’s surgery. The main goals are preventing your dog from licking or scratching the incision site and keeping the area clean and dry.

To prevent licking or scratching, your vet may recommend using an Elizabethan collar. This is the plastic cone that goes around your dog’s neck to prevent access to the stitches. Make sure your dog is comfortable and can eat and drink easily while wearing the cone. You may need to monitor your dog closely to ensure the cone stays on.

Keep the incision area clean and dry by gently wiping around it with a warm, wet cloth to remove any drainage or debris. Avoid getting the stitches wet. You can use a dry, non-stick sterile bandage secured with tape to cover the area, changing it daily. This helps soak up drainage and prevents irritation from licking. Check under the bandage each time to ensure the incision looks clean, dry and is healing well. Contact your vet if you see increased redness, swelling or discharge.

Your vet may prescribe antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medication to aid healing and prevent infection around the stitches. Be sure to give all medications as directed until fully finished.

Let your dog’s activity levels guide how much exercise and play to permit. Restrict activity like running or jumping that could pull at the stitches. Stick to short, gentle leash walks. Supervise your dog to prevent sudden movements or excessive licking that could damage the healing stitches.

With proper care and monitoring, dissolvable stitches will gradually absorb over the course of a week or two, closing up the surgical site for complete healing. If you have any concerns about excessive swelling, redness or discharge from your dog’s incision, contact your veterinarian right away.

Helping the healing process

There are a few key things you can do to help your dog’s incision heal properly after stitches:

Limit activity. It’s important to limit your dog’s activity while they recover from surgery to prevent them from pulling at the stitches or overexerting themselves. Follow your vet’s recommendations, but expect to restrict exercise, playtime, and access to stairs or furniture during the healing process. Some vets suggest keeping dogs confined to one room or using baby gates to limit access.

Provide an Elizabethan collar. Also known as an e-collar, this plastic cone collar prevents your dog from licking and biting the incision area. Your vet will likely send your dog home with an e-collar after surgery. Make sure your dog wears it at all times except during meals until the stitches dissolve or are removed.

dog wearing an elizabethan collar

Follow vet instructions. Listen to your vet’s specific advice on caring for the incision, including how long to limit activity and use the e-collar. Follow up with any recommended recheck appointments so the vet can monitor healing. Call your vet if you notice any signs of trouble like bleeding, swelling or discharge (VCA Animal Hospitals).

When to call the vet

It’s important to monitor your dog’s incision site and stitches closely during the healing process. Contact your veterinarian right away if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Redness, swelling, or discharge around the incision – This could indicate infection.
  • Dog bothering or licking at the stitches – Dogs should wear an e-collar to prevent them from pulling out stitches.
  • Missing or loose stitches – Any open areas should be evaluated by the vet.
  • Gaping wound or opening at incision site – The incision should be closed.
  • Signs of pain or discomfort – Whining, agitation, loss of appetite.

In most cases, redness, swelling, and discharge arising 3-5 days after surgery is normal. But significant or worsening signs could mean infection, so it’s best to have your vet examine the incision. They may prescribe antibiotics or other treatment to prevent serious complications. Close monitoring and follow-up care is crucial for proper healing after any surgical procedure.

Sources: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/post-operative-instructions-in-dogs, https://www.petmd.com/dog/general-health/how-to-check-pet-stitches-after-surgery

Aftercare once stitches dissolve

Once the stitches have fully dissolved, usually 10-14 days after the surgery, you will still need to continue monitoring the incision site and care for your dog as it completes the healing process. The incision may look fully closed, but internally it takes longer for the tissue to regain full strength. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations on activity restrictions, which often continue for 1-2 weeks after the stitches dissolve. Limit exercise, running, and rough play that could reopen the incision.

Check the incision site daily for any redness, swelling, discharge or openings. Contact your veterinarian if you notice any signs of infection. It is normal for a small scar to remain after the incision heals. Continue using an Elizabethan collar if your dog is prone to licking or rubbing the area so the incision can heal fully.

Schedule a follow up appointment with your veterinarian 7-14 days after the stitches have dissolved so they can examine the incision and confirm it has healed properly internally as well as externally. Your vet will let you know when your dog can return to normal activity levels and no longer needs continued monitoring or restrictions. With proper aftercare once the stitches dissolve, your dog’s incision should heal completely.

For more details see: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/care-of-surgical-incisions-in-dogs

Pros and cons of dissolvable stitches

Dissolvable stitches offer some advantages but also have some potential drawbacks compared to non-dissolvable stitches. Here are the main pros and cons to consider:

Pros

chart comparing pros and cons of dissolvable stitches

The main benefits of dissolvable stitches are:

  • No need for removal – The stitches dissolve on their own over time, saving the need for a follow-up appointment and procedure to take them out. This reduces handling and stress for the dog [1].
  • Less irritating – Non-dissolvable stitches can rub, and cause irritation as the wound heals. Dissolvable stitches may be less prone to this [2].

Cons

Some potential disadvantages of dissolvable stitches include:

  • Harder to monitor – It’s more difficult to visually monitor the incision site and ensure proper healing without regular veterinary check-ups.
  • Complications – Any complications may go unnoticed until more severe if the wound isn’t being regularly checked.

Overall, dissolvable stitches provide convenience, but require close at-home monitoring to catch any potential issues. Non-dissolvable allow for closer in-clinic monitoring.

Alternatives to Dissolvable Stitches

While dissolvable stitches are convenient and don’t require removal, there are some alternatives your vet may use instead:

Non-Dissolvable Sutures

Traditional non-dissolvable sutures are made of materials like nylon, polypropylene, or silk. They require a follow-up appointment for removal once the incision has healed enough, usually 7-14 days after surgery 1. Some pros of non-dissolvable sutures are:

  • Lower cost
  • Provide more tension support during initial healing
  • Allow assessment of healing progress at stitch removal

Surgical Glue/Tissue Adhesive

Surgical glue and tissue adhesives can be used instead of sutures to close incisions in some cases. The adhesive is applied over the incision to hold it together while healing. Pros include:

  • No need for stitch removal
  • May reduce scarring
  • Create a waterproof seal

Discuss options with your vet to determine the best closure method for your dog’s specific procedure and needs.

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