How to Apply a Warm Compress for Dogs

By Lisa McQuerrey

Just like humans, dogs benefit from warm compresses to help alleviate pain from illness, injury or surgery. Warm, wet paper towels, homemade rice pads or commercial heat packs can all be applied to affected areas of your pup -- generally for up to 24 hours post-surgery, after which ice is usually the preferred course of treatment. For best results, always consult your vet before using any type of home remedies.

When a Dog Needs a Warm Compress

A warm compress can help alleviate pain and discomfort associated with surgery, joint pain, ear aches and anal sac discomfort, among other ailments. It also can be useful for loosening joins and relaxing muscles prior to physical therapy. Your vet is the best resource for directing you on the frequency and placement of warm compresses and treatment duration.

In some instances, an alternating combination of ice and heat will be required, so follow your doctor's instructions carefully.

Types of Warm Compresses

Several types of warm compresses can be used on your dog.

  1. Soak a hand towel or several paper towels in hot water -- not hot enough to burn, but hot enough that it becomes uncomfortable for you to touch for more than a few seconds.

  2. Buy a commercial hot pack from a pet supply store or other retailer.

  3. Make your own compress by filling a clean white tube sock with white rice and tying off the end. Heat the pack in the microwave to the desired temperature. The pack should be warm to the touch but not so hot that it burns your own skin or is uncomfortably hot.

Hot Pack Placement

You'll likely need to hold the heat pack on the affected area of your dog to ensure it doesn’t slip out of place. Make it a pleasant experience by petting your dog and talking gently. If he’s squirmy, give him a bone or chew toy to distract him. Your vet will specify how long you should apply heat, but warm compresses typically are recommended twice a day for 5 to 10 minutes.

If you’re applying a warm compress to a surgical incision site, the compress may soak up draining fluids. In this case, a disposable compress may be better than a reusable one.