Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Your Warm & Your Cold: Compress Instructions

Buster rested most of the day but on his afternoon walk, he trotted on a little further.  He also tried to stand only on his hind legs this afternoon.  We are drugging him but we will be increasing the dose.  Certainly his left leg was worse than his right leg because he just didn't show so much energy and enthusiasm last time.  Also he was out on much heavier doses of tramadol and Acepromazine.

Today I'll talk about how we handled cold and warm compresses.  Many vets (and human doctors) recommend using a pack of frozen peas for an ice pack.  I put some ice in a freezer bag and reused the same pack.  I don't like to waste food and I won't eat peas that have partially thawed and frozen repeatedly.  I always wrap the bag of ice in a medium-sized towel.  When ice is applied directly to the skin, it can cause nerve and tissue damage.  Wrapping the ice helps to prevent that.  Leave the pack on for five to ten minutes.  Cold compresses are usually used for about three days but follow your vets instructions.

Warm compresses are trickier.  They must be moist.  You can't just warm up a towel in the clothes drier.  As previously mentioned, I use rally and sweat towels for this purpose because they are easier to wring out and they can wrap around the dog's limb length-wise (see photo).  Simply wet the towel with warm (not hot) water.  I try to wet the interior and keep the center the warmest.  Wring out the towel, gently lift the dog's leg, and wrap the towel loosely so that it covers the scar.  We add a second dry towel over Buster's lower limbs and hips (not shown) to help hold in the warm heat (California homes are not well insulated).  Let it rest for five to 10 minutes.  Warm compresses last at least two weeks, after stitches and staples are removed, and possibly longer.

It is important that you do not use boiling water and that you do not heat the damp or wet towel in a microwave.  Heated water or towels from the microwave will burn your dog.  Do not use anything except warm tap water.  Test the temperature on the inside of your wrist like you would a baby bottle.

Of course, I am only a pet owner.  If your vet gives your any instructions that contradict mine, you must follow your veterinarian's instructions.

Don't be surprised if the warm compress helps draw out fluids.  That's part of of the reason for a warm compresses.  It also helps relax the muscle, which promotes healing.  Some vets will recommend that you do passive range of motion after or during a warm compress.  This is a case-by-case basis so carefully do as your vet recommends.

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