Bandaging Considerations

Colorado Springs is an outdoorsy sort of place. Who can resist the close proximity of the mountains paired with perfect weather for summertime activities with the dog. Sometimes in the “active” part of the activities results in cuts and scrapes on a dog’s legs and feet that require bandaging. It seems like a straightforward thing to do, but there are some tricks and pitfalls associated with bandaging that are special to veterinary medicine.

If you are out anywhere with your dog it is generally a good idea to carry a minor first aid kit that includes some bandage material. The materials that you should have with you include white athletic tape, telfa pads, antibiotic ointment, roll gauze, and vet wrap in a color that compliments your dog’s coat color elegantly in order to promote maximal wound healing as well as fabulousness.

One of the main obstacles to effective bandaging is the inconvenient fact that legs tend to be wider at the top and narrower at the bottom, causing things that are wrapped around them to want to slide down quickly. One way to prevent bandage sliding is to increase tightness, but that technique leads to the main danger in bandaging--turning your wrap into a tourniquet. If someone placed a bandage on your arm that was so tight it was cutting off the circulation you would complain loudly and take the bandage off in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately your dog suffers the same sort of pain, but he is stuck having to unquestioningly accept that you have decided to cut off all circulation to his foot and that is just the way it is going to be. It doesn’t take many hours for a bandage that is too tight to result in permanent damage to the limb below the wrap.

There is a trick to getting a wrap to stay put without tightness. Stick a long strip of white athletic tape on either side of the limb or foot (not running over the wound) so that it runs under the area where the bandage will be but the lower ends extend beyond where the lowest edge of the bandage will be. Apply the telfa pad with a little antibiotic ointment over the wound and wrap the guaze firmly but not tightly around the area to be bandaged, leaving the ends of the tape hanging below the gauze. After the gauze is in place take the ends of the tape and give them a half twist and bend them up over the outside of the gauze wrap so that the sticky side of the dangling tape is now stuck down to the outside of the gauze. You have just created a stirrup that should keep the bandage from shooting off the leg without having to make it tight. Cover the outside of the gauze and tape with appropriately colored vet wrap.

It is possible to make the wrap too tight even when you are being careful. Sometimes the injured area swells and causes a bandage that was initially just right to become constricting. You can tell if a bandage is too tight by looking at the lower part of the limb that is wrapped. If it is swelling below the bandage then take the wrap off immediately. When wrapping feet try to leave the ends of the middle two toes exposed. When you look at the nails they should be lying parallel right next to each other. If they start pointing in opposite directions that means the foot is swelling and the bandage needs to come off.

Proper application of a bandage goes a long way towards preventing serious tissue damage and defeating premature bandage loss. Of course it doesn’t address the other great force of veterinary bandage removal, namely ingestion of said bandage by the patient. That, however, is a problem best left to be solved in some other column.