Wounds may be left open or bandaged, depending on their location and other factors. Wounds on the head and neck are often left open to facilitate treatment. Many wounds of the upper body are difficult to bandage and do not benefit greatly from being covered.
Bandaging has the advantage of protecting the wound from dirt and contaminants. It also restricts movement, compresses skin flaps, eliminates pockets of serum, keeps the edges of the wound from pulling apart, and prevents the dog from biting and licking at the wound. Bandaging is most effective for wounds to the extremities. In fact, nearly all leg and foot wounds can benefit from a bandage.
Dressings over draining or infected wounds must be changed once or twice a day. The bandage should be bulky enough to absorb the drainage without soaking through.
Foot and Leg Bandages
To bandage the foot, place several sterile gauze pads over the wound and secure with surgical adhesive tape. Be careful not to make the tape too tight. To secure a foot dressing, you will need to continue the bandage up the leg.
For leg wounds, cover the wound with sterile gauze pads. On top, pad the entire leg with plenty of cotton so the dressing won’t become too tight and interfere with the circulation. Wrap first with roll gauze, then wrap the leg with elastic tape or bandage. Your veterinarian or a veterinary technician can show you the best way to bandage a particular wound.
Veterinary wraps such as Vet Wrap work well, but you need practice to have the right amount of tension so you don’t cut off circulation. Flex the knee and foot several times to be sure the bandage is not too tight and that there is good movement at the joints.
Over the next few hours, check the toes for coolness and observe the feet for swelling. Swelling of the leg below a bandage will be seen in the toes. When the toes are swollen, the nails are spread apart instead of being side by side. If this swelling is not treated by removing the bandage, the foot becomes cold and loses feeling. If there is any question about circulation, remove the bandage.
Put a plastic bag over a leg bandage when the dog goes outside so it will stay clean and dry. Use a sock or a T-shirt to protect the bandage or to cover wounds that are difficult to bandage.
Bandages over clean, healing wounds can be changed every two days, but should be inspected three or four times a day for signs of constriction, limb swelling, slippage, drainage, or soiling. With prolonged bandaging, watch for moisture between the toes. If there are signs of any of these problems, replace the bandage.
Wounds on the foot or leg may be covered with a splint as well as a bandage. The splint minimizes movement of the area and speeds healing. Watch for sores from a splint rubbing on the skin.
This type of bandage is used to hold dressings in place and to protect the covered skin from the dog’s scratching and biting. It is made by taking a rectangular piece of clean cloth and cutting the sides to make tails. Tie the tails together over the dog’s back to hold the bandage in place.
Your veterinarian may prescribe an eye bandage to help treat an eye ailment. Place a sterile gauze square over the affected eye and hold it in place by taping it around the head with one-inch-wide surgical adhesive. Be careful not to wrap the tape too tight. Apply the dressing so that the dog’s ears are free. You may have to change the dressing from time to time to apply medication to the eye. Many dogs will need to wear an Elizabethan collar or a BiteNot collar to keep them from rubbing or pawing at the bandage.