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Home DOG THERAPY Heat or Ice, Which is Best for an Older Dog

Heat or Ice, Which is Best for an Older Dog

by Bella Woof

Knowing what is best for your older dog when it comes to treatment of their ailments and making them more comfortable can change as your dog gets older. If your dog is in pain or has an injury, the difference between using heat or ice can be the difference in the way they heal and the quality of their life.

Benefits of heat:

Heat is a great way to reduce pain, joint stiffness, and muscle spasms. It also improves blood flow especially in dogs with injuries and osteoarthritis. The increase in blood flow can help bring in oxygen and nutrition to the cells. Plus, remove toxins and waste products. Heat is also great when used in conjunction with massage and stretching.  This can help your older dog to feel less pain and move more freely.

Benefits of ice:

Ice is great for reducing pain and swelling in more acute injuries or flare-ups. It does this by limiting the production of inflammatory chemicals in an injured or arthritic area, and allowing healing to occur more easily.

When to use heat with an older dog:

Heat should be used for chronic conditions and should be avoided after acute injury, immediately post-surgery or flare-up of an injury or osteoarthritis. It should be used for 15 – 20 minutes over the affected area. Ensure the heat pack is not too hot (roughly between 40 degrees and 45 degrees) to avoid burns. You need to ensure you check your dog’s skin to ensure it is only just warm. Never force your older dog to have a heat pack if they don’t like it.  Heat can be used once to three times per day in colder weather.

When to use ice with an older dog:

Ice is great to be used post-surgery when an acute injury has occurred. It’s also beneficial for an exacerbation of chronic injury or osteoarthritis. If the joint or site of injury feels warm, then generally ice is appropriate to use in the area. Ensure you have a damp towel between the ice pack and the dog’s skin to prevent any ice burn. The ice should be applied for 20 minutes and can use be used two to four times per day. Just as with heat, don’t force your older dog to have an ice pack if they don’t like it.


You may choose ice or heat depending on your older dog ’s particular presentation. Consider their needs and it also depends on what they can tolerate. If your dog really doesn’t seem to improve with using heat then they may prefer ice.

Combine the treatment for your older dog with regular massage and nutrition specifically tailored to older dogs. Remember everybody is different and ages differently and your dog is no exception. The best thing to do is to visit a physiotherapist that is experienced in working with older dogs and get tailored advice and guidance from them.

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