Ice and compression have long been used in humans and animals alike to reduce pain by blocking pain fibers as well as reducing swelling. Icing a joint is typically recommended for the first 72 hours after injury or surgery, and then it can be used after activity to improve recovery.

We often provide ice and compression at the end of our rehab sessions after working a joint, and we recommended continuing to use this at home after the exercise or walking program.

These services are included in the cost of physical rehabilitation.

Gel ice packs or a bag of frozen vegetables can be easily placed around the affected joint and secured snugly with an Ace Bandage to provide compression. We recommend placing a thin cloth such as a T-shirt or pillowcase between your pet’s skin and the ice pack and ice sessions should last approximately 10 minutes. If you prefer to make your own ice pack follow the recipe below.

Heat can also be used over a muscle or joint for certain conditions to improve comfort and improve range of motion once the acute swelling has been relieved. Using heat packs or exercising in warm water can help to relieve pain, relax muscles, and increase oxygen uptake which then speeds tissue healing. When using a heat pack the heat should be applied for 10-20 minutes. We often recommend using heat prior to stretching, activity, or exercise in patients that suffer from arthritis, and then using ice when the activity is finished. Gentle range of motion can also be performed during the heat session to facilitate the movement of the joint.

If you use heat at home, be sure the pet can move away from the heat source to avoid getting overheated as well as preventing thermal burns to the skin. Just as with a baby bottle, check the temperature of the heat pack on the sensitive part of your arm to make sure it is not too hot before placing it on your pet. In general, “moist heat” is preferred because it allows for better penetration into the tissues. A hot pack made from rice or similar substance can be used so that they easily conform around your pets body and retain their heat, or you can use the following recipe to make your own at home. Heat should only be applied after all swelling has resolved and caution should be used over fresh surgical incisions.

Homemade gel ice packs

What you need:

  • 1 quart or 1 gallon plastic freezer bags (depending on how large you want the cold pack)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup rubbing alcohol


1. Fill the plastic freezer bag with 1 cup of rubbing alcohol and 2 cups of water.

2. Try to get as much air out of the freezer bag before sealing it shut.

3. Place the bag and its contents inside a second freezer bag to contain any leakage.

4. Leave the bag in the freezer for at least an hour.

5. When it’s ready, place a cloth between the gel pack and bare skin to avoid damaging the skin.

Homemade heat pack:

Supplies needed

  • Two hand towels
  • Ziploc bag
  • Microwave


1. Wet both towels with water, squeezing out the excess water until they’re just damp.

2. Put one towel in the Ziploc bag, being sure to leave the bag open. Place the bag in the microwave and heat on high for two minutes.

3. Remove the bag from the microwave. Be careful — it will be hot! Seal the Ziploc bag, and wrap the other wet towel around the bag.

4. Apply your homemade heating pad to the sore area. The heat should last about 20 minutes.