Bandaging for Gundogs

In the first of a series of articles on how to bandage your dog, vet REBECCA BAILEY starts at the top.

In this and succeeding articles I am going to talk about some of the most commonly used bandages for working dogs. It is more than acceptable for people to carry out their own bandaging at home and I encourage it in many cases. There are however some important things to remember.

So far we have discussed the various types of wounds and injuries and hopefully it is fairly evident which of those can be dealt with at home and which require veterinary help. There are three main reasons for using bandages, these are:

  • stemming of bleeding
  • protection of the wound from further trauma
  • keeping the wound clean.

It is important to remember that if a bandage is put on too tightly it will restrict blood supply to tissues and conversely, if too loose, it will fall off. Furthermore it is important to check the bandage a couple of times a day to make sure that it is not rubbing of cutting in, working itself loose or has got wet, as these things will all inhibit healing.

This is very useful for torn ear flaps. Any of you who have had a dog who has either been bitten on the ear or had a tear will know how well supplied it is with blood.  The aim of the bandage is to provide compression and stability and by doing this will give time for the body’s own clotting mechanism to take over. The problem with the ears is that they are often painful when damaged and a dog’s response is to shake and therefore dislodge any clot that may have formed, so starting the bleeding all over again. Two pairs of hands are often needed for this bandage unless you have a very compliant dog.

Step 1

 

Identify the site of trauma, this is often difficult to locate and generally fairly small compared to the volume of blood. It is pointless to try cleaning things too much at this stage as blood will soon appear again.

Step 2

Apply a light dressing to the area to stop the bandage sticking and fold the ear flap back over the top of the dog’s head. This is the position in which you need to try and keep the ear whilst bandaging hence the need for extra hands.

Step 3

Start the first layer of bandage at the top of the head over the problem ear, and wrap it securely under the throat and back up the other side of the head. Do this once more so that the elevated ear flap remains in place. From here you can then do a ‘figure of eight’ pattern using the other ear as an anchor to stop the bandage slipping back and forth. Some diagrams such as the one illustrated will demonstrate both ears bandaged up but it depends on the individual case.

Step 4

Add another layer following the same pattern if required.

Things to remember…

Don’t do the bandage too tightly otherwise the dog may not be able to swallow, also don’t come too far down over the forehead or the bandage will slip and the dog can’t see. Usually a few hours with the bandage in place will stop most bleeding however if the dog will tolerate it for longer then that is fine. When used to stem bleeding and apply pressure this bandage is only designed for short term use, if the wound is such that it does not need suturing then it will be fine to remove the bandage the next day.

Golden Rules

  • Have all materials ready to hand before startingWhen bandaging a lower limb include the foot to prevent it swelling, start from the toes and work upwards to stop blood from pocketing at the tips.
  • Only unroll a small amount of bandage at a time, this will ensure a more even tension throughout and will be easier to handle.
  • Apply firmly overlapping each turn by a 1/3 to a 1/2, an over-tight bandage will impede circulation.
  • Where necessary secure the end of the bandage either by splitting and tying in a knot or using tape.

Paws for Thought

Cut pads are a common injury in gundogs and here vet REBECCA BAILEY explains how to bandage a dog’s feet.

Having looked at head bandages in the last Shooting & Conservation it’s now time to go to the other extreme – feet. Working in rough ground it’s inevitable that a dog will occasionally cut a pad. Often this is very minor and you can treat it yourself, but broken glass or sharp metal can cause a deep wound which needs effective treatment and stitching and that calls for professional attention.

However in many cases a pad will have been sliced across the surface rather than cut deeply. Dogs tend to lick at this type of injury and will often contaminate and traumatise the wound by doing this. To prevent a minor injury becoming more serious you can bandage the paw yourself. This is the basic technique

Step 1

Clean and dry the wound as thoroughly as possible

Step 2

Place padding between the toes and pads and under the dew claw. This is important as often the dew claw will dig into the side of the foot once the bandage is applied and the toes will rub when pressed together without protection.

Step 3

This is slightly tricky but can be done single-handed; you need to protect the wound with a dressing whilst keeping the padding in place and applying the first layer of bandage. Sometimes I do opt for taping the dressing material on when I have a wriggly dog or awkwardly placed wound. Padded bandage is definitely preferable for this first layer and should be applied so that the bandage unrolls onto the leg (see diagram and picture). You need to start from the top of the area to be covered, roll down over and round the bottom of the foot then back again in the reverse direction (Figure 3).

Step 4

While still holding everything in place, the bandage is then wrapped around the foot; it is preferable to start from the bottom and work up.

The first layer should then be secured by a second and, if necessary, a third layer, following the same motions.

Be careful not to leave padding sticking out at the top as sometimes this is too tempting for the dog and will be picked out piece by piece.

Also remember that the bandage must be protected from damp, at the surgery we offer clients old drip bags as they are quite robust, however a thick plastic bag will do. This must be put on every time the dog goes outside when the ground is wet or onto grass. The bandage unfortunately acts like a sponge and although the outside will dry the inside will remain wet.

For a wound such as the sliced pad you will need to change the dressing daily to start with. This is to make sure that healing is progressing without evidence of infection. Signs of this are very obvious and include swelling, pain, redness or discharge. If this is evident then consult a vet.

Golden Rules

  • Have all materials ready to hand before starting
  • When bandaging a lower limb include the foot to prevent it swelling, start from the toes and work upwards to stop blood from pocketing at the tips.
  • Only unroll a small amount of bandage at a time, this will ensure a more even tension throughout and will be easier to handle.
  • Apply firmly overlapping each turn by a 1/3 to a 1/2, an over-tight bandage will impede circulation.
  • Where necessary secure the end of the bandage either by splitting and tying in a knot or using tape.

The Tricky Bits

In the last of her series on bandaging vet REBECCA BAILEY looks at those difficult parts which are always on the move – legs and tails.

This is my final article on bandaging and will cover the tail and hock (ankle joint). The tail, although frequently traumatised, rarely needs a bandage, this is generally a good thing as they are not the easiest dressings to keep on and will often be tested to their limit on a fast wagging tail. The hock can also make challenging bandaging as it includes a tendon which runs from the point (equivalent to our heel) upwards to join the muscles at the back of the knee. In us, this is the same as our Achilles tendon.

The tail bandage is useful in a couple of situations. Firstly for example, in dogs with tails which have been subject to sudden trauma such as being caught in car door, and have resulted in a split, profusely bleeding skin wound. Secondly, it is useful in those dogs which have endured ongoing trauma and just require some intermittent protection to allow healing and recovery.

It is common for some breeds to continue damaging a tail by persistent wagging against a hard surface long after the initial injury has passed. As I have mentioned before, I try to treat most tail injuries in a conservative manner. By this, I mean cleaning, close inspection and then application of an antiseptic or moisturising agent to nip things in the bud.

 

Step 1

Apply a dressing to cover the wound – you may find it helpful to tape this in place (pic 1, 2)

Step 2

As with the foot bandage apply the dressing to cover the tip first then wrap from the end, up towards the body. Overlap each turn by 1/3 to ½ to keep pressure as even as possible(pic 3, 4)

Step 3

Hold the padding in place with the conforming or adhesive layer, repeat the same pattern as before. Try not to have a huge bulge at the tip as this will mean the tail behaves like a pendulum and everything will gradually slip off backwards!(pic 5, 6)

Step 4

You will probably need to secure the bandage in place with some adhesive tape to stop slipping. Use a couple of turns of tape and each time try and catch a few hairs to keep everything in place. Not a lot of tapes stick well to large amounts of dog fur so catch enough hairs to secure but not too few so that they are pulled out. (pic 7,8)

Some authors will recommend covering the tail tip with a plastic tube or fastening the tail to the back leg – unfortunately I have not found either of these methods to work for me but it often depends on the dog. If you are without bandages but have a friendly plumber you can use the tubular pipe insulation as a tail protector. I have seen some success with taping this onto the tail so it is just long enough to protect the tip!

Hock bandage

Step 1

Clean if possible, and cover the wound with a dressing, again you may find it useful to tape this in place.

Step 2

Try to keep the hock in a position similar to that when the dog is standing. Apply the padded layer working from bottom to top to avoid squeezing the blood towards the toes. The bandage will sit more comfortably if you use a figure-of-eight pattern around the point at the back of the hock. Sometimes in lurchers and dogs with a very prominent Achilles tendon it is good to pad the grooves on either side, this will help support the tendon when the next layer goes on.

Step 3

Use the conforming or next layer of bandage in the same pattern as the previous layer. Make sure you do not pull the bandage too tightly over the tendon or it will rub and cause pressure sores.


Step 4

The finished bandage should be loose enough to allow a small amount of joint flexion but tight enough to stay on.


Final reminder:

Remember all bandages must be kept dry and checked at least once a day. As soon as a bandage starts to slip or rub it is no use to the dog and is more often a hindrance than a help.  If at any stage you find the dog is uncomfortable with the bandage or the wound appears to be getting worse or smelly, then you must consult a vet. It is sometimes useful to get face-to-face advice initially if you are unsure, this way you will know better for next time.

Golden Rules

  • Have all materials ready to hand before starting
  • When bandaging a lower limb include the foot to prevent it swelling, start from the toes and work upwards to stop blood from pocketing at the tips.
  • Only unroll a small amount of bandage at a time, this will ensure a more even tension throughout and will be easier to handle.
  • Apply firmly overlapping each turn by a 1/3 to a 1/2, an over-tight bandage will impede circulation.
  • Where necessary secure the end of the bandage either by splitting and tying in a knot or using tape.

With grateful thanks to Millpledge Ltd who supplied the dressings and diagrams in this article. For more detailed information on bandaging you can visit their website

www.millpledge.com/bandagebook

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