Useful Tips: Bandaging Your Dog's Foot?

This is our first experience with bandaging.

In spite of all the health issues and injuries we've been through with our dogs, we never had to bandage anything ourselves until now.

Cookie has cut her plantar paw pad

In order to try to keep the wound closed and clean, we decided to put on a bandage for each of our walks (not going for walks is not an option with a fireball such as Cookie).

While at home, we leave it uncovered so it can breathe and stay dry. Bandages on dogs are a tricky business and can get dangerous if left on and having a chance to get wet and become a breeding ground for bacteria.

So we only bandage it for going outside, remove when we return, and clean the foot with betadine solution.

Booties were suggested but here is the thing: with the level of energy Cookie has and the way she flies through the challenging terrain, we don't want her end up more hurt. We didn't want to mess with her normal gait. A cut paw pad is better than a broken leg.

Even when bandaging, we came up with a way to protect the plantar pad but leave the digits free.

Here is what we've learned to look for in a bandage:

1. We definitely and absolutely want one that is STRETCHY.

It helps to conform to the contours of the foot and leg, helps to keep it tighter without being too tight and stays on much better.

This morning we ran out of that one and tried a regular gauze bandage. It was a total dressing failure. Did not stay on properly at all and Cookie managed to step on something right after it came off and aggravated her wound.

Regular stretchy gauze bandage worked quite well but did require a sticky one over it,
as we learned after this one eventually unraveled.

2. Self-adhesive is a bonus

For some dumb reason, I was vet wrap shy at first. Probably because we didn't have one that was narrow enough, just really wide ones.

We did have a package of stretchy gauze bandage so that's what we started out with. On our first attempt we dressed the wound and tied the end of the gauze around. It held on fairly well but did come off eventually. We then got some sticky medical tape to go over that to hold it on. That worked quite well and can do just fine, actually.

It wasn't until we ran out of that one when I finally worked up the chops to use the wide vet wrap we did have. Seems quite dumb now, after we saw how great that one worked. Self-adhesive is ideal.

Side note: It seems to hold better when you don't stretch the final "loop" too much and also having it end on the top of the foot rather than on the bottom.

Cookie's vet wrap dressing AFTER an hour and a half of zoomies!

3. Water-proof?

That probably would be perfect but we don't have one of those (the vet wrap is just semi-watertight). We ordered some, though. Stretchy, self-adhesive and water-proof.

Because we got clean snow out here, no mud and no water, and sub-zero temperatures, we didn't worry about this feature too much, particularly because we don't leave the dressing on. But it does get wet in the snow.

The best results we had so far are with vet wrap. 

Other than not being water-proof it works beautifully. Conforms to Cookie's foot and stayed on even through an hour and a half of zoomies. And we took it off quite easily, didn't even require any cutting. It just unwrapped.

If you cannot get vet wrap, Johnson & Johnson Hospital Grade Hurt-Free Kling Design tape or Rexall Pain-Free "Stick-to-itself" tape are pretty much the same thing and work well too.

As s side note, do make sure you have small round-nosed scissors in your first-aid kit too, just in case you do need to cut your dressing to remove it.

Make sure you do have vet wrap (or a bandage with similar features) of VARIOUS WIDTHS in your dog first-aid kit.

And if you're out camping or on holidays in a remote area, do make sure you have a whole bunch of them. We ran out the good stuff very quickly and around here it's not just a question of running down the road to get more.

As one more side note, we apply some liquid vitamin E from a gel before dressing, to make sure the bandage doesn't stick to the wound. And while using the vet wrap, we also applied a little gauze pad over the wound before wrapping.

Related articles:
Dog First Aid Kit: What's In Yours?
Useful Tips: You Don't Have To Dish Out For An Expensive Dog Dryer