What is Cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy means: The use of cold as a therapeutic agent. When cold is applied it lowers the temperature of the skin and underlying tissues by removing heat from the body.

The benefits of Cryotherapy

  • Decrease blood flow
  • Decrease cellular metabolism and histamine reducing inflammation
  • Provide pain relief
  • Reduce trauma-induced edema (swelling)
  • Decrease muscle spasm

Here are a couple situation where using ice therapy can help your dog.

  • To help prevent inflammation (such as a dog with hip dysplasia, icing after performance or a hike may be beneficial)
  • To reduce swelling or pain associated with an acute injury – best time is within 48 hrs of injury
  • When prescribed after a surgical repair

When we are teaching about cryotherapy during the CCFT Live Lab, Dawn Hickey my fellow instructor who is the veterinary technician in the small animal physical rehabilitation department of the University of Tennessee always says:

“If you think your dog may have been injured - when in doubt, ice it”

Making an ice pack that will mold to the body

Homemade Ice packs:

Crushed ice (provides the greatest change to skin surface temp) placed in a moist towel or placed in a plastic bag and wrapped in a moist towel
Time: 10-20 minutes (can be reapplied after 1-2 hrs)

Making your own gel pack:
2:1 water/ rubbing alcohol ratio
Time: 10-20 minutes (can be reapplied after 1-2 hrs)

  1. Pour the water and rubbing alcohol into the freezer bag.
  2. Close the plastic freezer bag, be careful to squeeze any air from the bag.
  3. Let the homemade ice pack set in the freezer for at least one hour.
  4. Take the ice pack out and use it, as needed. When you are done, return it to the freezer so that it can gel again.

If you are competing in a performance sport, hiking or other physical activity with your dog, it might be beneficial to make a homemade gel pack and toss it in a cooler before you leave the house. This could be beneficial for you or your dog if you sustain any sort of mild or severe injury.

Reference: 2019 University of Tennessee CCFT program