If you’ve ever curled up on a heating pad to help relieve bad cramps or muscle aches, then you know just how beneficial they can be. Heat therapy is a common tactic for dealing with everyday pain, especially pain caused by joint or muscle aches. And the same can be true for dogs, with some caveats of course.
Heating pads and heated beds are often used by dog parents to help their pups heal from injuries or cope with the aches and pains that come with old age and arthritis. But it’s important to be sure that you’re using a dog heating pad correctly—and that you’re aware of the potential safety concerns.
Here’s what to know about dog heating pads, including some quick suggestions for buying one for your own canine companion.
The Benefits of a Dog Heating Pad
The logic behind why heating pads can be beneficial for dogs is the same for why they’re beneficial for humans. Namely, heat applied strategically to the body improves circulation and blood flow. It also offers a momentary increase in muscle flexibility.
The benefits your dog might get from a heating pad include:
- Muscle soothing and relaxation
- Relaxation of muscle spasms
- Relief from stiff and/or sore joints
- Relief from arthritis pain
- General pain relief
While all of the benefits of a dog heating pad are temporary, they can be instrumental in helping your canine companion while they’re recovering from an injury. And as mentioned previously, they’re also a common fixture in homes with aging or older dogs and dogs who suffer from arthritis. As a bonus, many dogs simply love to lay on a heating pad, especially on a cold day.
How to Safely Use a Heating Pad with Your Dog
Heating pads (including heated beds) may be safe for dogs in general, but there are still certain things to be aware of. It’s important that you know how to use them safely, and that you’re well-versed in the ways that a heating pad can turn from something beneficial for your dog into something that’s dangerous for them.
Make Sure It’s a Dog-Specific Heating Pad
Dogs and humans tolerate heat differently, and your own heating pad or blanket isn’t intended for use with your pup. Purchase a heating pad that’s specifically made for dogs, and read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully so that you know exactly how it works and how long your dog can safely be on it.
Monitor Your Dog When They’re on the Heating Pad
It’s normal that your dog may eventually feel a bit too warm on the pad and want to get up. If they’re arthritic or in pain, however, they may have a difficult time doing so, which could eventually lead to overheating. Never let your dog use the heating pad unattended or in a confined space, and help them out if it looks like they’ve had enough. Signs of overheating include panting, increased salivation, and a rapid pulse.
Regularly Check for Wear and Tear
If your dog likes to chew, there’s a chance that they could end up noshing on the heating pad or its electrical components. In addition to discouraging this, check the pad regularly for any signs of damage, since it can lead to wiring concerns that may put your pet at risk.
Buying a Dog Heating Pad
If you think that your dog might benefit from a heating pad, then it’s definitely worth a purchase.
There are various types of heating pads to choose from, including:
- Electric heating pads: These plug directly into the wall and are often thermostat-controlled in order to maintain a consistent temperature. They can get pretty warm, so it’s crucial that you monitor your dog and the heating pad itself. Keep an eye on the cord too, particularly if your dog or other household pets are known chewers.
- Thermal heating pads: Thermal heating pads contain a reflective layer that radiates your pet's body heat back at them. They can’t get quite as warm as an electric bed, but there are no cords to worry about—plus no need to worry about overheating, since they can’t exceed your pet’s own body temperature.
- Microwavable heating pads: Similar to a warm compress, microwavable heating pads are filled with a special material (often a gel) that traps heat when you microwave it. They cool down as they’re used so there’s not much risk of your dog getting overheated, however they can come out of the microwave quite hot so check the temperature before letting your dog lay down on it.
- Orthopedic heating pads: Much like regular orthopedic pads and beds, an orthopedic heating pad offers additional comfort for aging or aching dogs. They’re heavier than traditional heating pads, but have extra layers to protect and cushion joints, which could be key.
- Outdoor heating pads: If your dog is going to be using a heating pad outside, make sure to buy one that is specifically rated for outdoor use. These are made with water-resistant outer materials to ensure they can stand up to moisture, and come in both electrical and thermal options.
Use the information above to choose a heating pad that’s the right fit for your dog and your home. It may be a good idea to talk to your veterinarian first to see what they recommend, both in terms of the type of heating pad you should purchase and how you should ensure safe use.
Have other pets at home? They’re in luck! Cats love heating pads too, and many dogs enjoy them regardless of whether or not they’re dealing with pain or injuries.