How to Use Dog Heat vs. Cold Therapy

Reviewed By Tom •  Updated: 01/13/21 •  9 min read
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When your dog injures himself, it can be confusing on whether or not heat or cold therapy is the best option for treatment. If your dog has become injured and you’re wondering which treatment is best, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ll take a look at when and how to apply these therapies, why to apply them, and more.

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Heat Therapy for Dogs

Heat therapy can be a helpful therapy if your fur baby has injured himself, had surgery, over-exercised or has developed arthritis. Heat is often used to reduce muscle spasms, stiffness, increase blood flow and relieve pain. This type of therapy is only applied after the swelling and inflammation have gone down. It can also be used to treat stiffness and pain caused by arthritis and can improve your canine companion’s range of motion in a joint. It can also provide him with comfort, help him relax and reduce his stress.

It’s most often used in long-term injuries or can also be used for infected wounds or abscesses. In infected wounds, the heat works to draw out the infected materials. In addition, the increased blood flow carries oxygen and nutrients to the area of the body where it’s applied. The blood then carries off toxins and lactic acid, which can result in muscle soreness after your fur baby exercises. Who knew heat therapy could do all this!

How to Apply Heat Therapy

Heat therapy should only be used for about 10-15 minutes at one time. It can be applied with a heating pad, a hot moist towel, or with a hot water bottle. It’s important to never apply the heat directly to your dog’s body, as this can cause serious burns. Instead, use a bath or tea towel to cover the heat source and then apply the heat to your fur baby’s skin. You’ll need to be sure the heating source is not too hot. It can burn and damage your fur baby’s skin. So, make sure to check the temperature often and give your pup a break from the heat. Never use heat therapy on an open wound or the sutures after surgery, as this could cause swelling.

Never apply heat to if there is bleeding or bruising, as the heat will make these conditions worse.

When to Use Heat Therapy

Heat therapy is a great way to loosen and relax muscles, ligaments and tendons. However, never apply heat when the injury is swollen. The reason is due to the increased blood flow from the heat source. Use heat therapy on muscle pain, warm compress for dog arthritis pain, relaxing muscles, drawing out infection.

Best Heating Pad for Dogs with Arthritis

1. Riogoo Pet Heating Pad

Your fur baby is sure to love this heating pad for dogs! Check out the Riogoo Pet Heating Pad. This heating pad is perfect for all pets, such as dogs, cats, rabbits and more. The heating pad has an auto power off function, and heating lasts from 1 to 12 hours. The UL approved heating wire will keep your fur baby from getting burned. There’s also a temperature sensor inside the warming mat to keep the pad from overheating. The heating pad is made from water-resistant material (PVC) and is easy to clean. It also comes with a removable and washable polyester cover. The heat is adjustable from 80-130F and the dog heating pad comes with a one-year guarantee.

2. K&H Pet Products Microwavable Pet Bed Warmer

Rather than plugging in, this pad is heated in the microwave. It’s soft and squishy when warm, and it will conform to your dog’s body comfortably. The cover is made of neoprene, which is durable and washable. The pad is non-toxic and provides up to 12 hours of warmth when placed in your canine companion’s bed. It’s easy to use and comes with a one-year warranty. This might be a good option if you need to run errands or go to work and leave your pup at home. He’ll have warmth while you’re away, which will help his arthritis and keep him more comfortable.

3. Smart Pet Love Heat Packs for Pets

These heat pats are all natural, non-toxic and safe for both humans and pets! They’ll heat for up to 24 hours and then you can throw it away.

If you don’t need to use the pack for 24 hours, then simply seal it in a plastic bag and squeeze the air out to stop the heating process. These packs don’t use electricity or need to be microwaved.

Cold Therapy for Dogs

Cold therapy is used on injuries that have occurred in the past 24-48 hours. It’s used to treat swelling, inflammation and pain. Cold therapy also works to slow the nerve impulses to the brain. This can work to reduce the level of perceived pain and ease muscle spasms. In addition, when a cold pack is removed from the skin, immediately the capillaries in the skin begin to expand, which brings blood back to the affected part of the body on your fur baby. This stimulates circulation, raises the temperature in the area, stimulates the nervous system and more. In this way, cold therapy helps to heal. Cold therapy works to numb the area, causing vasoconstriction, which is a fancy word for saying that cold slows down blood flow. It also works to reduce fluid that can build up at the site of the injury. Cold packs can also be used on chronic conditions such as repeated strains and inflammation.

Cold Packs for Dogs

You can create an ice pack for dogs by placing ice cubes into a plastic bag, a wet cold towel or use a package of frozen veggies such as peas. You can also use ice gel packs that you use for your own injuries. Never place the cold pack directly on your fur baby’s skin, as this could freeze his skin, leading to severe frostbite. Instead, place the ice pack in a towel and then lay this on your pup’s skin. It will be necessary to check the ice pack every 5-10 minutes to make sure it’s not too cold for your fur baby. Generally, an ice pack can be safely on the skin for about 10-15 minutes, but not longer than 30 minutes.

You can also try these cold packs for dogs: Caldera Pet Therapy Gel Pack. This cold pack is perfect for treating your fur baby’s aches and pains, insect bites, joint pain, sore muscles and more. They can even be used hot or cold, as needed. These gel packs are long-lasting & reusable. The contents are safe & non-toxic, and they’re latex-free. This product is made in the USA.

Cold Compression Therapy Dogs

Your vet may also prescribe a type of therapy called cold compression therapy for your fur baby. This type of therapy is used for humans, too, and is quite effective at treating pain. The compression therapy consists of ice and the use of intermittent compression to reduce inflammation and pain. The results are great, with dogs generally have a shorter recovery time after an injury or surgery. The wraps can be used at the vet’s or at home.

Cold Compress for Dogs After Surgery

Cold compresses can also be helpful for your canine companion after he has surgery. Just as it does for other injuries, an ice pack can reduce blood flow to the surgical site, reducing inflammation, swelling and pain. Follow your vet’s directions on applying cold packs to your pup’s surgical site, but generally, you can use ice packs in the first few days after the operation. It’s also helpful for if your pup has physical therapy after his surgery.

Heat/Cold Packs Combined with Massage

Both of these treatments can be beneficial when combined with massage to help dogs that have an injury, pain or post-surgery.

How to Choose Which Therapy to Use

Both heat and cold therapies are beneficial to healing and relieving pain, but how do you know which one to use? If you have this question, then it’s best to call the vet for advice.

When it comes to applying either hot or cold therapies, remember that each one should only be applied for 10-15 minutes at a time, and no longer than 30 minutes. You’ll also have to check your fur baby to make sure the heat/cold are not causing him discomfort or skin damage. Also watch for signs that the heat or cold therapy may be increasing his discomfort. He may be moving around too much, growling, biting, or show other signs he’s simply not happy. Stop the therapy immediately, and then call your vet. Heat and cold therapies are both inexpensive, non-invasive ways to help your dog find relief from the injury, sore muscles, surgery he’s had and more. If you have questions on how to apply these therapies properly, please be sure to call your vet. They’ll have the right advice for your fur baby every time!

We hope the cold or heat therapies will provide your fur baby with the comfort and relief he needs. We wish you both all the best and hope your canine companion will soon be up and about again!

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Tom has always loved to write since he was little - he wanted to be either a writer or a veterinary doctor, but he ended up being a professional writer while most of his works are based on animals. He was born in San Francisco but later moved to Texas to continue his job as a writer. He graduated from the University of San Francisco where he studied biotechnology. He is happily married and a soon to be father!

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