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How to Use Heat and Cold Therapy to Help Your Dog

When your dog has an injury, it can be very confusing trying to decide the best course of action to take to ensure you provide the best possible treatment for them. Most pet owners do not understand when and how to apply cold therapy vs. heat therapy.
Common client questions include:
  – Should I use and ice pack on my dog? Should I apply a heat pack?

Here are some tips on how and when to use cold therapy vs. heat therapy.

Cold Therapy for Dogs

Cold therapy should be used on new injuries within 24 to 48 hours. Typically, after first use, cold therapy is applied for a minimum of three days. It is used for local swelling, pain and inflammation which is the body’s response to the tissue damage and the pain

Why cold?

The cold helps to numb the area and causes vasoconstriction which slows the flow to the area and reduces fluid buildup in the area. It treats the swelling and redness but does not treat the actual injury which should be seen by your regular veterinarian.

When Do You Use Cold Therapy on Your Dog?

You should apply cold to an area as soon as possible to reduce the amount of swelling, redness, and pain. It can also be used on muscles after you take your pet on a long hike or run as exercise can also cause inflammation and pain.

How to Apply Cold Therapy to Your Dog

Cold therapy should be applied as quickly after the injury as possible. You should apply cold therapy for 10 to 20 minutes at a time giving your pets tissues a break between applications. You need to always have a barrier between your cold or frozen item, and the skin such as a Caldera Pet Therapy Wrap, and never leave them on for too long as it can cause tissue damage.

Heat Therapy for Dogs

Heat treatment on infected wounds can help draw out the infected materials. Unlike cold therapy, heat therapy is applied after the initial swelling and inflammation (a.k.a. irritation) stage of an injury. It is most commonly recommended after 48 hours.

Why heat?

Heat Therapy is most commonly used on chronic, long-term injuries or for infected wounds or abscesses. It can be a source of relief to muscles and can be used to reduce stiffness and treat muscle spasms, soreness due to exercise and can increase range of motion. Heat therapy can also be used for ongoing conditions such as arthritis. By reducing stiffness, heat therapy helps to improve joint range of motion during and after exercise.

How Does Heat Therapy Work in Dogs?

Heat is very calming, provides comfort, relaxation and helps with anxiety reduction. Heat increases blood flow to the area of the body it is applied to. It carries oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and carries away toxins and lactic acid which is responsible for muscle soreness after exercise.

When to use Heat Therapy on Your Dog

You should use heat therapy for an ongoing source of pain and aggravation from soreness and stiffness. Heat therapy is most commonly applied to joints: shoulders, elbows and wrists/carpal in the front legs, and hips, knees/stifle and ankles/tarsal in the back legs. It can be used on any part of your dog's body where muscle damage, strain or spasm occurs. For example, a dog with a disc problem in the spine (neck or back) may have muscle spasms, which heat therapy can relieve. When using heat on your pet for exercise purposes it should always be applied beforehand not after.