The Difference Between Cold Pack And Hot Pack For Arthritic Dogs

Should you use cold or hot pack for your arthritic dog?



Cold therapy reduces inflammation, decreases pain, and reduces swelling, and is used for acute injuries, chronic arthritis, or inflammation. Apply no longer than 20 minutes; you don’t want to freeze the skin. You can use cold packs up to five times per day. Use a thin cloth between the cold pack and skin.

To make your own cold packs, take a Ziploc bag and add 2/3 cup water and 1/3 cup of isopropyl alcohol. Seal bag, place in a second bag, and put in freezer. This will turn to slush, which will easily conform to your dog’s body. Alternatively, wet a towel and put in freezer to freeze. Take it out, place it in a plastic bag, and wrap it around an affected limb.

When to apply cold packs:

✓ Swollen or inflamed joints. (Move your hands over your dog and feel the temperature of the skin. You will be able to feel heat over areas that are inflamed.)

✓ Muscle spasms.


Heat creates vasodilation and increases nutrient and oxygen delivery to tissues, which aids in the repair process. Heat helps the muscles relax, is considered soothing, and can improve range of motion. Apply for 15 to 20 minutes.

To make your own heat packs, soak a small towel in hot water and then place it in a plastic bag. Lay a thin cloth or towel over the dog, and apply the warm pack. Alternatively, wet a towel and heat briefly in a microwave (the time will vary depending on the power of your microwave). After making sure that no spot in the towel is too hot, put a thin cloth on the affected area on the dog and apply the towel over the cloth.

When to use heat packs:

✓ After any swelling has subsided, use heat for stiffness.

✓ Use before stretching limbs or going for a walk. This aids with tissue elongation, helping to improve your dog’s gait and range of motion.


Applying a hot or warm pack for 15 minutes and then placing a cold pack for 15 minutes stimulates a flushing action. Warmth causes vasodilation, bringing more blood to the site. Then the cold causes vasoconstriction, sending the blood away, taking with it toxins and creating a flushing effect.