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Do Heating Pads Help With a Dog’s Arthritis? Vet Approved Facts & FAQs

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on April 13, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog bed with yellow blanket

Do Heating Pads Help With a Dog’s Arthritis? Vet Approved Facts & FAQs

VET APPROVED

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Arthritis is quite common in older dogs. If you understand the pain and discomfort the ailment can inflict, you may wonder whether you can use heat therapy to offer some relief.

Can a heating pad help alleviate the pain of a dog with arthritis? The answer is yes.  Heat treatments increase blood flow and boost muscle relaxation. They also ease muscle spasms and rigidity to offer relief from arthritic pain.

Read on to learn how to keep your arthritic furry friend more comfortable using heating pads. We will also share some tips to help manage the condition and ensure your pet leads a long and happy life.

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Heating Pads & Arthritic Pain in Dogs

Arthritis attacks joints and causes painful inflammation and stiffness. Although the disease has no cure, some treatments can help preserve joint functions and limit the aches. Most treatments, including anti-inflammatory medications and arthritis surgery, are invasive.

Heat therapy offers a non-invasive means to reduce joint pain and inflammation. Applying heat to aching joints using a heating pad can make walking and moving around easier for your dog.

Heating pads designed for dogs ensure your pet reaps the full benefits of heat therapy without jeopardizing their safety. The pads evenly distribute the heat to avoid causing burns or discomfort on the skin. This ensures almost instant comfort and relief from the aches.

a border collie dog looking sick covered with blanket on couch
Image By: Lindsay Helms, Shutterstock

How Do Heating Pads Work to Relieve Arthritic Pain?

Applying heat to the sore spots offers pain relief by increasing blood circulation. This provides instant comfort and encourages the healing of damaged tissues by ensuring they receive ample amounts of oxygen and nutrients.

In addition, warmth makes the connective tissues and muscles more pliable, reducing joint stiffness, and increasing flexibility. It also stimulates the production of joint fluid (synovial fluid), ensuring better joint lubrication for pain-free movements.

Generally, this improves the joint range of motion, making it easier for your dog to exercise or move around.

A heating pad can also help arthritic dogs by distracting its brain from the pain. Your pet’s sensory receptors will switch focus from the joint pain to the comforting warmth. This helps to alleviate anxiety and enhance relaxation.

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How to Use a Heating Pad on an Arthritic Dog

Heating pads make administering heat therapy a breeze. Products specially made for pets have heat settings ideal for a dog’s needs. You can use them on joints around the shoulders, elbows, or hips, among other areas where muscle damage and stiffness can occur.

For the best effect, ensure you use warm—not hot—temperature settings. If the heating pad is too hot, it can burn the skin. On the other hand, therapy cannot be effective if the heating pad is not warm enough.

If you are worried about your heating pad’s temperature, you can ensure safety by placing a towel between your dog and the device. Also, test its temperature on your inner wrist and make the necessary adjustments.

The ideal duration to use a heating pad on an arthritic dog will depend on the weather and the severity of an attack. Generally, you can apply heat for 10 to 30 minutes. Constantly check on your pets to ensure they are comfortable.

Start by massaging the affected joints and bones to improve circulation, flexibility, and mobility. The outcome of massage sessions will likely be more effective after at least 10 minutes of heat therapy using the heating pads. Gently knead the stiff muscles without putting direct pressure on the affected joints.

man turning on electric heating pad_Pixel Shot
Image By: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

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The 5 Tips to Keep Your Arthritic Dog Comfortable & Happy

An arthritis diagnosis can be scary, mainly because the disease has no cure. Fortunately, there are numerous strategies you can implement to help manage your dog’s pain. It is also essential to partner with your vet to ensure your methods of choice are safe yet effective.

Here are a few tips to help keep an arthritic dog comfortable and happy.

1. Do Basic Home Modifications

Arthritis causes immense pain, especially when moving around. It can also make your dog constantly anxious if it fears sliding on slippery surfaces. It would be helpful to invest in non-slip rugs and place them on smooth surfaces like hardwood and tiled flooring.

An orthopedic dog bed can also make a significant difference in the overall comfort of your furry friend. Such beds are low to the ground to ensure easy climbing when your pet wants to nap. Also, they are made from memory foam, which provides support to keep aching joints and bones more comfortable when sleeping.

Overhead view of chocolate lab senior dog as he relaxes on his orthopedic bed
Image By: Shelly Bychowski Shots, Shutterstock

2. Keep Weight & Diet in Check

Unhealthy weight can add undue pressure on aching joints. If your furry friend is overweight, it is crucial to help it lose weight to take some of the strain off sore areas.

Moreover, engage your pet in low-intensity exercises daily. Even a slow 10 to 30-minute walk can help strengthen the muscles and ligaments. It will also help in maintaining a healthy weight or shedding unhealthy pounds.

It would help if you also kept your dog’s diet in check. The ideal food portions will highly depend on your pet’s age and activity levels.

Also, you might want to invest in special meals that contain glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids. These can help reduce the disease progression and relieve arthritic pain by lessening joint inflammation.


3. Be Extra Gentle When Grooming

Another tip to keep your dog happy and comfortable is to be extra careful during grooming sessions. You must be gentle, whether you are brushing your dog’s coat, trimming its nails, or bathing it.

It’s not a good idea to lift an arthritic dog. If possible, use steps or ramps to make areas like your bathtub more accessible. If you must lift it, gently place one arm around its chest and the other around its behind. Ensure it feels secure and watch for signs of discomfort.

Sometimes, arthritic dogs have aggressive tendencies and can behave unexpectedly if they are in pain. You must take extra precautions during grooming sessions and adjust your handling methods if they display signs of discomfort. Also, keep your sessions as short as possible to avoid overstressing your furry friend.

a person trimming a dog's nails
Image By: Duet PandG, Shutterstock

4. Assist Your Dog When Need Be

Most arthritic dogs, especially seniors, need extra support to move around. Activities like climbing stairs can be terrifying, especially as the disease progresses. If your furry friend doesn’t need much help, you could make a homemade sling and wrap it under its belly or chest to help them move around.

Dogs with osteoarthritis may need more regular assistance getting up and about. If they can still walk around, you must use a specialized harness to keep them more comfortable. You’ll need to talk to your vet about specialized carts for arthritic dogs if your pet has completely lost the function of a limb or two.


5. Be Patient

Although arthritis can be caused by injuries or diseases like obesity and diabetes, it is often a result of genetic predisposition.

The best way to thank your dog for the many times it has cheered you up is to show love and patience. Offering plenty of attention and affection will ensure it remains happy even as it battles arthritis.

woman owner and her boxer dog at home
Image By: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

Heat works wonders for arthritic dogs. It improves the flexibility of stiff joints, enhances joint lubrication, and boosts blood flow to provide relief from pain and discomfort. It is pretty usual for dogs to fall asleep once you apply a heating pad, which shows how soothing the treatment is.

It is simple yet highly effective in promoting comfort and relaxation for dogs with arthritis. The secret to ensuring the best outcome is to apply warm (not hot) heat. If your dog shows signs of discomfort like growling or moving excessively, stop the treatment and consult your vet.


Featured Image Credit: everymmnt, Shutterstock

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