Helping an Arthritic Dog through Localised Cooling
It’s estimated that around 20 percent of adults dogs, and 80 percent of older dogs (aged 8 years or above) suffer with canine arthritis. As dog owners, we all want to know how to help a dog with arthritis live a high quality, pain-free lifestyle. To do this, it’s important to understand what canine arthritis is, why it happens, how it affects dogs, and what treatments are available.
What is canine arthritis and why are dogs afflicted with this condition
Joint inflammation happens for many reasons, including a dog being overweight or obese, or due to accidents. But one of the most common causes is simply ageing.
As with arthritis in humans, the natural breakdown of bones and cartilage in old age puts dogs at risk of developing arthritis, and if you see an older dog in pain, especially displaying signs of joint pain, the cause is likely to be arthritis. The hip area is most likely to be affected, although dog owners frequently report symptoms of the condition being displayed in the shoulders and elbows.
While there are no definite cures for arthritis in dogs, we don’t need to sit back and watch helplessly if a dog is in pain. In fact, there may be something dog owners can do at home to help relieve pain and facilitate easier joint movement – localised cooling.
Localised cooling treatment for dogs with arthritis
It all comes down to controlling the intra articular temperature. The intra articular space is the area between the joints where cartilage tends to rub together, break down, and become damaged, and the body’s natural response is to swell in order to protect the area from even more damage. This is how inflammation occurs. Research shows that heat tends to encourage the breakdown of cartilage, so it’s widely believed that cold temperatures could have the opposite effect.
Reducing the intra articular temperature in dogs
For dog owners wondering how to help a dog with arthritis manage its pain via localised cooling, it’s all about reducing the intra articular temperature to minimise cartilage breakdown and ultimately limit the level of inflammation present in the joints. The intra articular temperature can be reduced in two ways:
- via the localised, topical application of ice packs, or
- by running an ice bath for the dog.
Owners can use ice packs in the same way they’d use a bag of frozen peas for a bumped head. That is firmly placing the pack onto the affected area and securely holding it in place.
The coldness of the ice pack works to reduce the intra articular temperature, showing average drops of 2.2 degrees celsius at 5 minutes, 4.1 degrees at 15 minutes, and 6.5 degrees at 30 minutes. In studies, the effects of the temperature drop have been notable.
Dogs in pain have shown changes including
- reduced inflammation
- easier movement
- and an apparent reduction in discomfort
Ice baths may be a little more uncomfortable for our canine friends, but they can also be hugely advantageous for a dog in pain. Just 15 minutes in an ice bath shows intra articular temperature drops of 20.2 degrees on average, which has been shown to be very effective minimising pain and discomfort. The benefits of ice baths and localised cooling typically last between 22 minutes and one hour as the dog begins to warm up and the joints return to their base temperature.
Therefore, experts looking at how to help a dog with arthritis often recommend regular cooling temperatures in order to replicate the results frequently and improve the quality of life for dogs in pain.
Is localised cooling dangerous?
Although localised cooling is heavily focused on how to help a dog with pain, some dog owners may be worried that this method of treatment is actually doing more harm than good. Cold temperatures can be very detrimental to canine health, and experts recommend that domestic pets, particularly those who aren’t accustomed to severely cold conditions, shouldn’t be exposed to temperatures below 7 degrees celsius without wearing warming and protective winter clothing. This begs the question of whether it is safe and humane to apply ice packs, or to run an ice bath, for dogs with arthritis.
Interestingly, it has been found that localised cooling, and even ice baths to some extent, are not risky for dogs as long as they are only exposed to the cold temperatures temporarily and allowed to warm back up to their normal base temperature afterwards. Although locally applied ice packs have a significant effect on the intra articular temperature, causing it to drop dramatically and reducing inflammation, the core temperature when taken rectally remains remarkably stable. In fact, ice packs applied for up to 15 minutes typically have no effect on core temperature, and there’s an average drop of just 0.5 degrees celsius after 30 minutes application.
As expected, ice baths tend to reduce core temperature a little more, but with an average drop of just 1.6 degrees, this is nothing a dog can’t handle, and certainly won’t cause a dog to be in pain.
How to help an arthritic dog live a high quality life
A dog in pain isn’t living life to the full. The effects of arthritis on a dog’s quality of life can be devastating, and, as dog owners, it hurts to watch a pet suffer and struggle with everyday activities such as walking or running. That’s why it’s important that we do what we can to ease our pets’ suffering and help them to live as high a quality of life as possible.
Make sure he still has some exercise with you and his dog bed is comfortable for his rest.
There are many experimental treatments, but as yet there appears to be nothing that’s proven to more more beneficial for pain and inflammation than localised cooling.
If you’re wondering how to help a dog with arthritis, focus on getting that intra articular temperature down – that’s the key.
For extra comfort for your dog, we suggest having a look at our comfy beds for your dog in the cold winter months. Click here to find out more about the cosy klam dog bed.