Running to the vet every time they injure their paw or get a scratch isn’t always practical. But it’s also not easy to take care of their wounds when you’re not professionally trained, so the urge to take them to the vet for every little thing is understandable.
It’s inevitable that they’re going to get into some kind of trouble resulting in an injury, so it’s best to be prepared. If you don't know how to bandage a dog or cat, we created this guide for you so you’ll know exactly what to do when the moment strikes.
1. Get The Bandage Supplies
Before you start bandaging your pet's wound at home, gather all the supplies you need, so the process goes as smoothly as possible. An injured animal is going to be nervous and can be hard to manage, so being prepared is key. If you're not sure what you'll need for your dog's particular wound, you can always call your veterinarian’s office for advice.
To make it simple, you can purchase a canine or feline first-aid kit.
The kit should include a type of sterile dressing, like Melolin. Also include cotton wadding, stretchable gauze bandage, and a self-adhesive bandage such as a cohesive vet wrap, or adhesive tape.
You should be able to buy everything you need to apply your pet's bandages at a pet supply store, or online. Your veterinarian might also be able to provide you with the appropriate supplies.
2. The Right Amount of Tension
Before you begin to apply the bandage, it's essential you learn how to use the proper tension to the bandage.
The bandage cannot be too loose or else it will slip off your dog and expose the wound. That can lead to a higher risk of infection. More importantly, your pet could also get injured all over again.
If the band is too tight, it can cut off the animal's circulation and make them extremely uncomfortable.
The appropriate amount of tension is necessary to prevent the bandage from either slipping off or hurting your furry, loved one.
You'll want to be able to slip a full finger between the bandage and their fur. It should feel like the bandage grips your finger between the bandage and their fur.
3. Apply the Bandage
Once you're are ready to apply the bandage, clean the area thoroughly to prevent any bacteria from building up.
If your veterinarian recommends it, apply disinfecting medication to the area.
You can apply an absorbent, non-stick pad over the wound before you begin the dressings. Take a bit of cotton and place it over the affected area, but make sure it's applied firmly.
You can also add some gauze following the same steps. Confirm that the gauze is not too tight.
Then, you'll be ready to add the layer of cohesive wrap.
4. Observe the Bandage for Tightness
If the bandages are too tight, you will be able to tell right away because it will fall off the dog. But what if the bandage is too tight?
You should be able to recognize the signs of a bandage that is too tight. Pay attention to the following symptoms:
- You observe swelling below the dressing
- The dog or cat is licking or chewing on the dressing
- They seem restless, irritable and whining
- They behave aggressively
- You observe a foul smell coming from the dressing
If you're not sure if the dressing is too tight, it's best to remove the entire dressing and start over.
5. Use a Cohesive Vet Wrap
A cohesive vet wrap is the opposite of an adhesive bandage. Adhesive means the bandage sticks to the surface where you are applying the tape, and cohesive means that the wrap sticks to itself instead. It's perfect for covering gauze or other bandages as an additional supportive layer. It can also be used to hold medical devices in place such as an IV, without sticking to the animal's fur.
If you're going to use a vet wrap, you need to make sure you know what you're doing. Since it's too elastic, it means it will self-tighten right away once you put it on it might be too tight.
This material doesn't stretch easily, and if it gets wet, the bandage could tighten to an uncomfortable degree. If the dog or cat has to get wet, make sure you cover the area with a plastic bag.
6. Try to Keep the Bandage On
It can be a challenge to keep anything applied to your dog or cat, because they will actively try and take it off. But other factors can cause the bandages to come off, like getting caught on bushes or getting wet during a bath. To keep the bandage on it's a good idea to try to keep the area dry at all times and limit your dog's (or cat's) time outside. Keep activity levels low until they've had enough time to heal.
For dog owners, when you take them outside to go potty, keep them on a leash so they don't wander off and re-injure themselves.
7. Give Garters a Try
You can use garters on the limbs or tail of your dog. Start by using the garter tape as a guide to start the bandaging process. The tape will hold the bandage in place.
This will help stop your pet from removing the dressing.
After you've bandaged the wound, you can add more of the garter tape on the last loop of the bandage.
8. Try Stirrups
Since bandages tend to slip off dogs due to their fur, stirrups can help with this problem.
Like garters, stirrups are a type of tape you place directly on the dog's fur.
However, you should be careful when applying stirrups on your dog's skin. If used too many times, it can cause skin irritation and/or sores. Always check your tape applications to ensure your dog or cat isn't having a reaction to them.
9. Prevent Chewing on Bandages
Our beloved pets don't know that they shouldn't chew on their bandages, but oh boy will they try. For minor injuries, it's not practical to put them in the cone of shame, and many pet owners don't have easy access to one anyway.
Try a chew prevention cohesive wrap ( like Chewblocker) layered over normal cohesive bandage wrap to deter them from chewing. The smell and taste are unappealing to animals, so they won't want to chew off the bandage.
10. Other Products You Can Use
If you fear the bandages are not enough and your dog can get in into the wound, there are other products that can help conceal it.
If your pet's injury is isolated to one of his limbs, you might consider using a protective boot from keeping them from biting and fighting the bandages.
These protective boots will guard over the wound and provide extra protection. Something similar is also available as a garment to put it over their bellies or chest area.
When your dog or cat has a wound on the chest area, upper limbs, or body, you can use a neck brace to give the bandage an extra layer of protection and provide stability.
The neck braces don't provide protection for their paws.
The Cone of Shame
Sometimes the wound needs an additional protection, which is why if you feel uneasy, you can use an Elizabethan collar, also known as "The Cone of Shame." These are the types of collars that look like a lampshade and are applied around the neck of the animal to make it difficult to chew on areas of their body like their legs and abdomen.
It prevents the animals from chewing on their wounds but can be bulky (and look quite silly).
How to Bandage your Pet: The Bottom Line
Now you know how to bandage an animal after an injury. Gather all the supplies you need first, then ensure the dressing is not too tight or too lose, and ask your vet for more direction if you need to.
Need to stock up on supplies before you bandage your pet? If so, then check out our line of veterinary tapes and wraps. We have many options that are perfect for creating your own pet first-aid kit, especially if you need to provide a supportive wrap for an injury.
Please reach out to us if you have any questions! We're happy to help and would love feedback. If you have any tips to properly bandage your pets' injuries, please share with us!