A Guide to Bandaging your Pet’s Leg Wound

by VetDepot on April 20, 2011

pet-bandagingIf your pet has a wound on its leg, he or she should always be examined by a veterinarian.  Although many wounds may heal on their own, optimal care by a veterinarian should be provided to minimize delayed healing and infections.

Bandages have several purposes.  They promote wound healing, limit infection, protect the wound, provide stability and help wick away excessive drainage.  It is not uncommon for pets to want to lick at or chew at a bandage.  Pets should always be supervised while wearing a bandage or wear an E-collar to prevent damage to the bandage.

When placing a bandage, the first step is to prepare the wound. The hair around the area should be clipped away with a clipper, sterile lubricant can be placed in the wound prior to clipping to prevent hair from getting into the wound.  The wound should then be cleansed, either using tap water or water with some diluted iodine solution (diluted to the color of weak tea).  This will help remove debris and bacteria from a wound.

Bandages have 3 layers to them:  the primary (first) layer, secondary and tertiary (third) layer.  The first layer is in direct contact with the wound and is often designed to stick to the wound to help debridement (removal of dead tissue) in the early stages.  In the later stages of wound healing, when there is a granulation bed (new healthy pink tissue), non-adhering bandages such as Telfa or adaptic pads are used.  Sometimes, medications are applied to the first layer. For superficial wounds (abrasions), triple antibiotic ointment may be applied and simple gauze can be used as the primary layer as well.  The second layer is designed to wick fluid away from the wound, provide padding and support to the wound – it is most commonly made up of rolled cotton and rolled gauze.  When applying the secondary layer, it is best to start at the toe and work your way up, overlapping each layer by about 50%.  One or two layers of the cotton may be applied.  Cotton roll rips easily and cannot be applied too tightly.  Rolled gauze is placed on top of this in the same fashion.  One must take care not to apply the gauze too tightly or it may result in a tourniquet effect; only snug pressure should be used.   The third layer is not necessary for a field dressing; it is designed to protect the bandage – materials such as an ace bandage, vet-wrap or tape (even duct tape) can be used in this case as the outer layer – care must be taken again not to apply these materials too tightly.

For traumatic wounds, it is often necessary to change the dressing once or twice per day until the drainage decreases; then the bandage can be changed every 2-4 days until the wound is healed.  Many wounds require surgery for full repair.  You should call an Animal Emergency Center if your pet has sustained any type of injury causing open wounds.

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