Cold Therapy

A handy first-aid item for your horse is in your freezer.

Cold therapy can help a variety of your horse's muscle, tendon and joint injuries. So when ice is what the doctor orders, a bag of small frozen vegetables, such as peas or corn, makes a convenient cold pack.

Don't want to ruin tomorrow night's dinner?

Make your own ice pack, using a resealable plastic bag to hold slab or crushed ice. Crushed ice releases its cooling properties more quickly, and the pack will conform more readily to the shape of the area being treated.

Chemical ice packs, such as the "blue ice" used in picnic coolers, also work well. Commercial ice bandages designed for specific parts of a horse's leg are also available, as are special chemical pouches that produce a rapid freezing reaction when activated.

Remember, always contact your veterinarian to discuss the symptoms and location of the injury.

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Other cold therapy guidelines are:

    • A rule of thumb is five minutes on, 15 minutes off until heat and swelling are noticeably reduced.
    • Use a damp cloth or cotton sheet as a buffer between the ice pack and the horse's skin to protect the tissue and dissipate the cold.
    • Chemically activated cold packs may require more layers of fabric to buffer the skin and prevent frostbite.
    • Do not place ice directly against the skin if there is an open wound. Use several layers of cotton gauze to protect tissue and absorb fluids.

From "Cold Therapy & Ice Bandages," a project between 3M Animal Care Products and the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Other educational brochures are available from AAEP-member veterinarians. To find one in your area, call (800) GET-A-DVM.

AQHA's "Your Horse's Health" DVD series discusses colic, laminitis, EPM, West Nile virus and other illnesses and ailments you need to be aware of. Order this excellent resource today!

How Cold or Ice Can Help

Applying ice or cold therapy can improve a variety of tendon, joint, muscle and other soft tissue injuries by decreasing blood flow to the damaged area and slowing the metabolism of the surrounding tissue so it is less likely to suffer damage from swelling and constriction.

Cold therapy helps to:

    • Reduce Inflammation
    • Reduce Swelling
    • Dissipate Heat
    • Alleviate Pain
    • Slow Bleeding

Click here to learn more about cold therapy from AAEP and 3M.