Why should you apply warm compresses?
Applying heat in the form of a warm compress stimulates blood vessels in a specific area to dilate and bring more blood to the area. It can also cause muscle relaxation.
Sometimes your veterinarian might recommend hot packs to enhance circulation to stimulate healing or to help remove excess fluid by dilating the veins and lymph vessels. Warm compresses also have a soothing effect that can be used for pain relief and to decrease muscle spasms and soreness.
When should you apply heat?
Heat should NOT be applied during the acute inflammatory phase of healing. This phase usually lasts 3-5 days following trauma or surgery.
Heat can be used once acute pain, swelling, and redness have diminished. Warm compresses are probably most useful for treating chronic injuries associated with muscle soreness or spasms.
How to apply a warm compress:
You can use a commercial warm compress/ hot pack but make sure you wrap it in a dish towel or pillowcase!
Another method is to soak a small towel in warm water and wring it dry. You can then place a damp, warm towel over the area on your dog to be treated. A dry towel can be placed over the damp towel. Test the temperature of the compress on your arm for 30-60 seconds before applying to your dog. It should be warm and soothing, not hot.
- The damp towel may need to be reheated several times during a 15-20 minute treatment period.
- A hot pack should NEVER be applied directly to an animal’s skin. Place a thin towel between the hot pack and your dog’s skin. (The warm towel method can be applied directly to the skin so long as you test it on your skin and it is not too hot).
- Do not leave your animal unattended while the warm compress is on.
- Do not leave the warm compress in place for longer than 20 minutes.