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Cold Therapy:

What is cold therapy?

Cold therapy is the application of cold to reduce swelling and relieve pain.

Why is cold therapy prescribed?

Cold therapy is used for OA to decrease swelling after exercise and can help reduce pain your pet may feel.

Where should I apply cold therapy?

Cold therapy, such as the use of ice packs, can be applied to any location on your pet's body. It is most commonly used on joints, such as the shoulders, elbows, hips, or knees.

What can I use for cold therapy?

A variety of items are available, including vinyl cold packs, gel packs, ice packs, or bags of frozen vegetables, such as peas or corn. Vinyl cold packs and gel packs can be purchased from local sporting goods stores. Ice packs can be made at home. Frozen vegetables can be purchased at local grocery store.

When do I apply cold therapy?

Cold therapy is commonly applied to OA affected joints after exercise to help with any discomfort and swelling, or anytime your pet demonstrates signs of pain or swelling.

How do I prepare the cold pack?

For vinyl cold packs or gel packs, follow the manufacturer's instructions on the package. To make an ice pack, place crushed ice in a plastic bag, remove all excess air from the bag, and seal the bag. For frozen vegetables, place the bag in the freezer for two hours. Remove the bag from the freezer immediately before therapy because the bag will only stay cold for about 20-30 minutes.

What are the treatment guidelines?

Place a thin cloth, such as a pillowcase, on your pet's skin and then place the cold pack on top of the cloth. This helps prevent frostbite and reduces the cold shock to your pet. Hold the pack in place with your hand. Leave the pack in place for 10-15 minutes or until the skin feels cool to the touch. You may notice your dog fall asleep; this is okay and demonstrates your pet’s comfort with the therapy.

What are the safety considerations?

Never leave your pet unattended with cold packs to prevent accidental ingestion of the cold pack. Stop treatment immediately if your pet shows signs of severe discomfort, such as growling, snapping, or yelping.

Millis DL, Levine D, Taylor RA. Canine Rehabilitation & Physical Therapy. St Louis. 2004. Saunders. p 282.

  • Use cold packs to reduce pain and swelling.

  • Bags of frozen vegetables, such as peas, can be used as a cold pack.

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