How do you know when to use cold versus hot compresses?

Our question this week was:

My dog recently had knee surgery and his leg is swollen. Should I use warm or cold compresses?


Merle P. – Phoenix, AZ


Hi – thanks for your email. Excellent question. Generally, cold compresses are used on acute injuries (those less than about 24 hours old) to help decrease inflammation, pain and swelling. For injuries that are older, warm compresses are often used to help increase the circulation to the area to help aid healing.

At home, compresses can be made using a wet towel. You can dip a towel in hot or cold water, ring it out and gently apply it to the area. Make sure it is not TOO hot or TOO cold as tissue damage can occur from those extremes.

Over the counter hot and cold compresses are also sold at most pharmacies.

Compresses are most often recommended for 10 minutes every 6 to 8 hours.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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