There has been a social media post going around showing the healing timeline of soft tissue injury relative to the grade of the injury. It is really solid information that I hope people pay attention to. However, the information provided should not be taken as “gospel” when it comes to actual healing in dogs. Anyone relying steadfastly on a well defined chart may experience disappointment if they fail to take other factors into consideration.
There will always be variations in duration of healing between individuals and even between similar injuries within one individual. Dogs don’t generally reside in ultra-controlled environments – they probably wouldn’t be injured if they did – and these healing timelines were likely derived in a highly controlled, clinical setting.
There are so many factors that might delay full healing – here are a few common situations:
Age: Older animals generally take longer to heal than younger animals.
Previous physical condition: Poor fitness prior to injury will slow the progress to recovery.
Overactivity: Overusing an injured limb will significantly affect the rate of healing. This is by far the most common cause of delayed healing.
Under-activity: Lack of using an injured limb will decrease the rate of healing.
Chronic inflammation and pain: Low grade inflammation increases pain, which decreases overall function, use and delays healing.
Uncontrolled/undiagnosed medical conditions: Thyroid disease, diabetes, adrenal gland disease, excessive weight and cancer are a few medical conditions that can affect healing.
Infection: Undiagnosed infection at the injury or surgery site can delay healing.
Anxiety and stress: Even in short duration episodes, stressful experiences can delay healing due to an increase in cortisol.
Lack of training and relaxation skills: Leash pulling, charging wildlife, pacing, playing keep away, inability to relax and rest are all common reasons that recovery may take longer than expected.
So, while a nicely outlined chart showing healing timelines is good for helping us in that it helps us see the end in sight, it’s important to understand that there are many situations which will prove those timelines wrong.
Your best bet to good healing is to seek out a qualified and experienced rehabilitation professional who can set appropriate expectations with you while providing the support needed to get through to the other side of an injury.