What is Cold Therapy?

The use of cold applications has long been associated with the alleviation of symptoms caused by injury. Cold therapy promotes healing in a variety of different ailments. It can be used post-surgery in combination with physiotherapy. A veterinarian or physiotherapist may apply cold compresses, or they may instruct the owner on how to properly apply them. 

Cold therapy works by constricting the vessels surrounding an injured area. This decreases swelling and inflammation. The cold temperature also numbs feeling around the injury, which decreases pain. Cold compresses can relieve muscle spasms. For best results, cold therapy should be administered frequently during the healing process. In general, cold therapy addresses the symptoms of an injury, but does not treat the injury itself.

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Cold Therapy Procedure in Dogs

If the site of injury is not obvious, it will have to be determined. This can be done by gentle, but firm palpation of the body and limbs until a response from the dog is seen, or a lump or lesion is found. Cold therapy is often performed using ice packs. Specialized packs specifically for dogs can be purchased, or ice packs can be homemade using plastic bags using 1 part water for 3 parts alcohol. 

When applying the ice packs, never put the frozen material directly on the skin of the dog. A cloth can be used as a barrier so that skin does not freeze. If cold therapy is being used on a surgical wound, Vitamin A and D ointment can be applied to prevent infection during treatment. The pack should be moved every few minutes. Cold therapy sessions should not exceed 20 minutes.

Efficacy of Cold Therapy in Dogs

The use of cold applications are very effective in relieving the body's initial response to injury. The immediate effects of swelling, pain and inflammation can be temporarily alleviated, allowing time for the dog to receive medical attention. Cold therapy is rarely used as a permanent solution, but it can be instilled as part of a regular treatment regime, especially in cases where mobility is being increased.

Cold Therapy Recovery in Dogs

If applied correctly, the treatment itself should require no recovery time. The injury being treated will vary in healing time depending on location and severity. Surgical incisions often take only two weeks to fully heal, with muscle repair recovery lasting months on end. Some injuries do not require veterinary attention, but having your dog examined after an injury has been sustained is the safest course of action.

Cost of Cold Therapy in Dogs

Cold therapy is often used with physiotherapy, which can range in cost depending on how long it is needed. The cost of ice packs themselves can range from $10 up to $50 for specialized packs made to fit on dog's limbs. If veterinary appointments are needed to assess injuries, this may add to the overall cost. 

Dog Cold Therapy Considerations

An ice pack must never be put directly on a wound. This can destroy delicate tissues and result in infection, which often causes more swelling and pain in the animal. If ice packs are left too long on any area of the body, the affected skin may freeze. Cold therapy is most effective in its uses within the first 48 hours of an injury occurring. It must be paired with other treatments to address the injury for full effectiveness.

Cold Therapy Prevention in Dogs

The best way to prevent the need for cold therapy is by preventing injury. Keeping your dog on a leash while on walks can greatly reduce the chance of serious injury while outdoors. Watch for any developing injuries from repetitive movements. Bring your dog in for regular veterinary check ups to help discover issues early on. This can prevent the need for surgery in some cases.