Warm Moist Heat Use in Canine Rehabilitation

October 26, 2020 | ​​​​​​​

Warm moist heat treatment is ideal for relieving pain from arthritis, surgery, injury, and strenuous exercise. Surgery and injuries call for cold treatment for the initial 3 to 7 days; after that time elapses, you may switch to the warm moist heat therapy 7 to 10 days after surgery or injury. Cold therapy prevents inflammation by constricting the injured area’s blood vessels. Moist heat therapy promotes healing via increased circulation.


Defining the Therapy


While warm moist heat therapy is easy, cheap, and effective, it is underutilized. Warm moist heat therapy works better than dry heat therapy because the moisture makes it easier for the heat to penetrate the deeper tissues. The heat increases blood flow to the critical area and brings down the pain. Also, the muscles stretch more, and tissue metabolism increases. Your pet is also freed from getting into the cycle of developing stiffness and joint pain.


Performing the Warm Moist Heat Therapy on Your Pet


Although the warm moist heat therapy is quite easy, some basic guidelines allow your pup to reap the highest benefits. They are:

  • Ensure that the heat is moist. Ensure the pad or pack is hot and moist to make heat penetrate the skin and tissues easier. Most drug stores stock moist heat in the form of rice, beads, and gel packs. You can also make a heating pad at home by taking a washcloth and wetting it with water. Microwave the wet pad for a minute or so until it reaches the desired temperature.
  • The temperature must be right. A little heat on the pad will not produce the desired effect. Also, if the pad is too hot, you may burn your dog, increasing its pain. Ensure that the pad is hot, but not enough to burn. Test the pad first by holding it down on your skin for 20 seconds. If you can withstand the heat, the pad is safe for use. If upon application, the dog expresses discomfort by growling, biting, or moving restlessly, stop the therapy immediately.
  • Experts say that the heat should be high enough to cause a 33-35 degrees Fahrenheit (1-2 degrees Celsius) tissue temperature increase on the dog’s skin. The increase is ideal for causing a 10 to 15 percent local metabolism increase. Blood flow to the area increases, as does the supply of oxygen, nutrients, and proteins to the injury site. With adequate supply, the area heals faster.
  •  Secure the heating pad in place. For ideal heating, secure the pad in place directly above the affected area for 10 minutes. When the time elapses, the canine’s skin should feel warmer to touch than the rest of the body.
  • Dwell on the affected areas. For arthritic dogs, apply the pad to the aching joints. These may include the elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles, hips, and wrists. For dogs recovering from surgery or injury, focus the therapy on the wound or incision area. If the dog has a disc problem on the spinal vertebrae, apply the heating pad to relieve pain and muscle spasms.  If swelling occurs, stop therapy and call our office at 727-521-3518 for doctor recommendations.
  • Allow the canine to rest. The dog’s ideal position while applying the heating pad is to relax and lie down. Since the warm moist heat therapy is soothing, the dog will likely fall asleep. Allow it to rest for as long as it may need.

Frequency of Treatment


The number of times to conduct the warm moist heat therapy depends on the condition of your dog. Typically, owners repeat the treatment every 6 to 8 hours. However, when your dog is recovering from injury and surgery, vary the treatments depending on the dog’s healing process. For precise scheduling, get a professional to design a treatment plan for your dog.


The warm moist heat therapy treatment is ideal and effective for relieving pain, stiffness, and soreness for canines. To consult a professional on the therapy treatment, visit the Tampa Bay K9 Rehabilitation Center at St. Petersburg, Florida. You can also call 727-521-3518 to book your appointment.

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