When your pet injures themselves, it can be a stressful and confusing time deciding on the most appropriate course of treatment and best healing outcome for your best friend. If you are a dedicated owner and want to ensure your animal companion recovers and returns to full mobility with as little pain as possible and at minimal cost, you might want to consider Cold or Heat therapy as a temporary remedy.
Cold (cryotherapy) is widely used in emergencies – straight after an injury or trauma, to stop bleeding, prevent swelling, inflammation and lower the pain threshold. Cold therapy penetrates deeper and lasts longer than heat due to decreased circulation. Cold therapy can also be applied during the flare-up stage of chronic injuries (beyond 72 hours) to reduce inflammation and ease signs of pain.
EFFECTS OF COLD
- Cold therapy causes constriction of the blood capillaries, prevents trauma and hemorrhage to the area.
- Reduces inflammation and formation of edema (swelling).
- Reduces muscle contraction and spasms.
- Decreases pain by numbing the nerve endings.
- Controls and lessens pain by activating endorphin production.
APPLICATION OF COLD, DEVICES & TECHNIQUES
- Simplest method is to wrap a freezer bag with crushed ice in a thin damp cloth and apply to the treated area for 10-15mins. For severe injuries apply every 2 hours prior to seeing your veterinarian and for post-operative every 3-4 hours.
- Ice or gel packs – wrap in towel or thin cloth and apply to the remedied area – always observe your pet to ensure they don’t bite the pack, some gel’s might be toxic.
- Towels soaked in ice-water can be used but need to be changed regularly as they warm up quickly.
- Frozen vegetables are a great and cheap alternative.
PRECAUTION – NEVER apply ice directly to skin!
Heat (thermotherapy) has been used for centuries for managing sub-acute (24-72 hours) and chronic conditions. Superficial Heating; includes the use of hot packs, heat pads, infrared lamps and warm air dryers and is the preferred form of heating since it penetrates to a depth of approximately 1-2cm. Deep Heating; includes Ultrasound, Laser, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) and Magnetic Field Therapy which are also known as Electrotherapy Modalities. Deep heating must be administered by trained operators only, it can penetrate to a depth of 4 cm or more. In combination with massage therapy, heat greatly aids in the recovery stages of injuries and post-surgery.
EFFECT OF HEAT
- Decreases pain by soothing nerve endings.
- Increases local circulation and metabolism.
- Reduces muscle spasm and aids muscle relaxation.
- Loosens muscle, tendon and ligament fibres and assists in removal of toxins.
- Increases white blood cells migration into the heated area and accelerates tissue healing.
- Eases low-grade inflammations and relieves stiffness in older animals.
APPLICATION OF HEAT, DEVICES & TECHNIQUES
- Hot packs can be applied to the area treated for 15-20mins, but they may be left for longer as they will gradually cool. Hot packs should be wrapped in a towel prior to application – always check the temperature on yourself before application especially if it has been microwaved.
- Commercial hot packs contain various substances to retain the heat – always observe your pet during application.
- Hot water bottle is practical, very effective and can be applied to the treated area for 15 minutes.
- Hot towels are convenient but need to be replaced frequently.
- Electrical heat pads are not recommended since they may cause burns and are a chewing hazard, if you choose to apply one – please take care and don’t leave your pet unattended.
PRECAUTION – NEVER allow your pet to lie on top of a hot pack and NEVER apply heat directly to skin!
GUIDELINES AND CONTRAINDICATIONS FOR USE OF HEAT & COLD THERAPY FOLLOWING INJURY OR SURGERY
|Use in the acute stages (24 hours post injury) of inflammation||NEVER use in the first few days after injury|
|First 2-3 days after injury (longer if necessary)||Useful once edema has stopped forming (usually 3-5 days after injury)|
|Advanced cardiovascular disease||Acute Inflammation|
|Acute skin conditions||Open wounds|
|Extensive scar tissue||Malignancy (cancer)|
|Open or infected wounds||Impaired circulation to the area being treated|
Please consult your veterinarian for a full list of Contraindications.
Cold and Heat therapies are the oldest methods of physical therapy, yet are simple and effective when used in the treatment and recuperation of small animals. Although commonly used to rehabilitate human’s post-surgery, it’s gaining recognition in the veterinary community. Please consult your veterinarian or physical therapist for further guidance and advice.
If your dog sustained a recent injury or recovering from surgery, we would love to hear from you and tailor a treatment plan which encompasses massage & cold / heat therapy.
To book a free phone consult contact Melina on 0403 939 202 or Melina@PetNurture.com.au
Allegretti, J., & Sommers, K. (2003). The complete holistic dog book Home health care for our Canine Companions. Berkeley, California, United States of America: Celestial Arts.
Hourdebaigt, J.-P. (2004). Canine Massage: a complete reference manual (2nd Edition ed.). Wenatchee, WA., USA: Dogwise Publishing.
Jones, E. M. (2007). BSAVA Manual of Practical Veterinary Nursing (2007 ed.). Quedgeley, Gloucester, UK: British Small Animal Veterinary Association.
Watson, S. L. (2010). BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Rehabilitation, Supportive and Palliative Care. (S. a. Penny, Ed.) Gloucester, England: British Small Animal Veterinary Association. Retrieved May 12, 2017
Individual blogs are based upon the opinions of the specific author, who retains full copyright. The material is NOT intended as medical advice, it’s intended as a sharing of knowledge and information.
We are not veterinarians and do not diagnose any conditions, perform surgery or prescribe medications, we can assess the muscles as part of being a Canine Myofunctional Therapist. Muscle therapy is not a replacement for proper veterinary care and any injury or disease must be medically diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian. We encourage you to make your own pet health care choices in collaboration with a certified pet health care professional.