Picking up from where we left off last week. We are entering our final step in the wound management process which is covering the wound. Again- quick recap: Step 1) is clean, step 2) is close, step 3) is cover the wound. Which we are discussing here today!
To start: If you would like more information on proper bandaging technique and the principles behind it visit this blog post.
If you want the cliff note version… read on!
A very abbreviated run through on the three layer bandage technique: Apply (preferably) a sterile contact layer – contact meaning direct contact with the wound (Telfa pad for example)-, then use your roll bandage material to hold the contact layer in place by starting at the bottom and spiraling your way up. With each passing spiral cover the previous pass by ½ the width of the bandage. Ensure you are applying even tension and smooth out the wrinkles as you apply the material. When bandaging with stretchy material do not max out the material’s stretch capacity when tightening the bandage. Aim for about 50-75 percent of the material’s max stretch capacity. In order to acquire this “feel” practice practice practice is a MUST!
In this blog post mentioned above I discuss a bandage that has three layers. And if you have all the equipment on you to have a contact layer, an absorbent layer, and holding layer to your bandage then please do so! But if you do not have the means to carry that extra stuff on you, you can then compromise.
We don’t talk much about other options for bandaging material in the other blog post so we will quickly run through that here.
1. Consider an ACE bandage and a sterile Telfa pad or some other (preferably sterile) wound dressing.
2. Duct tape, another alternative that most of you might hike with anyways. Whether you wrap it around your Nalgene or carry strips wrapped around a lighter…. Just know that depending on the extent of the wound you might need MORE duct tape than anticipated. And I would hate for you to run short. That being said on amazon you can purchase “flat” strips of duct tape. It packs easier and is my preference.
Also, while it will work in a pinch it is my preference to use duct tape in conjunction with roll gauze and an ACE bandage or vetwrap. The reason being is that duct tape has no absorbent qualities. If we have a weeping or oozing wound or laceration it is very important that those bodily fluids get drawn away from the wound. Allowing the wound to sit in its own fluids encourages bacterial overgrowth, which can result in infection.
Other added benefits and a hot tip? Use duct tape to aid in waterproofing. Wrap the bottom of the bandage with several strips so the bottom of the bandage stays dry. A soon as the bandage becomes wet it must be replaced. So if you are hiking though wet or muddy conditions this is very important!
3. In a pinch, utilizing whatever you have on you will work temporarily until you can get your dog to the truck. A buff, a bandana, extra clothing etc that would go over the wound. Then hold it all in place with, perhaps a "soft splint" or bandage. Ideas for a soft splint include a closed cell foam pad, cut to fit, a puffy jacket etc. The thicker the "padding" part of the bandage the more room you have for error when you are securing it in place. (ie the more padding you have to buffer the holding layer- the less likely you are to cut off circulation when you tie it in place). So yes, while its helpful to have wrap material on you like tape and vet wrap... even paracord or straps off a pack could tie the whole "soft splint" in place. Torn or cut pieces of clothing can also work.
4. Another viable bandaging option is carrying an Israeli bandage. This is essentially a sterile pad that is attached to your stretchy roll bandage that holds everything in place. It’s essentially your entire bandage in one, minus the roll gauze. It's vacuum sealed and packs down very small and can be used on your dog or yourself.Other benefits include- it can be very effective as a pressure wrap as the material is stretchy and allows for a tight bandage. Plus, it has a cleat for additional pressure application if the wound is severely bleeding. It ends with a self closing clasp to secure the bandage so you do not have to worry about a holding layer. This is especially effective in chest wounds, since chest bandages can require a lot of bandaging material. While you can use an Israeli bandage on legs ensure that you do not wrap the bandage too tight around the leg.
Important note: With any bandage the risk of wrapping the material too tight is high. This is where practicing proper bandage technique is paramount, so that you get a feel on how tight you can add tension to the holding layer so the bandage does not slip- but not so tight that you cause swelling or cut off blood circulation to the limb.
5. Finally, if you want to carry the traditional three-layer bandage, the material required is going to include a telfa pad as your contact layer, roll gauze or kerlix as an absorbent layer, and vetwrap as your holding layer. Again, for technique refer to this blog post for more information on technique.
So, there you have it. I know this was a lot of information, so feel free to revisist these past two blog posts after you have had time to digest the content.
If you are anything like me you are likely geeking out on the new med kit items mentioned here in these past two blog posts and are ordering them on Amazon as we speak. Virtual fist pound to you!!
Having a complete first aid kit and practicing your bandaging technique while keeping these principles in mind will help you be more proactive and prepared for the unthinkable.
I know you have the ability to be your own dog’s first responder, and I hope by reading this article you now too feel that you can do this. This doesn’t have to be a big deal if you don’t make it one. Just stay present. Stay focused. And think towards the next logical or appropriate step.
And after the fact- revisit it to think on where you can improve, what you wish you had had on you, and how you would do things differently. It can be uncomfortable at times, but we owe it to our dogs to do our homework ahead of time and then learn from our experiences so we can approach each new situation with the confidence, competence, and capability to handle any situation.
I know you got it in you! Now you just need to believe in yourself.
Until next time friends, get out and explore more with your pup.
Libbie Fort, DVM