Bandages and Bandaging

Wound Bandaging and Bandages

Many wounds actually heal better if lightly bandaged because the bandage will provide warmth, protection, support, and prevent the wound from excessive drying. For healing of some types of wounds, extensive support and immobility may be required – this may entail bandaging plus the application of splints or casting materials. This approach is sometimes used in areas prone to the development of "proud flesh," which is an overabundant growth of granulation tissue that interferes with healing.

A non-stick sterile dressing applied directly over the wound should be covered by bandage material placed over top to hold it in place and protect the area further. It is important that any bandage material not be applied too tightly as this may interfere with blood flow in and out of the area. Bandages should be checked at least daily and changed as recommended by your veterinarian.

Ask your veterinarian for advice on the types of wound dressing and bandage materials available and the "how to" of bandaging different types of wounds. Head wounds can be difficult to bandage and may require some ingenuity (e.g. a "figure-of-eight" bandage). Wounds in some areas are particularly challenging, and sometimes impossible to bandage such as those on the leg above the knee or the hock. Some locations, like the heel bulbs, may require immobilization techniques to encourage the wound to heal. This may be accomplished through the application of a cast, which your veterinarian applies.

Commercially available bandage materials and wound dressings available for human use are commonly used on animals. There have been new and innovative types of wound dressings introduced to both the human and veterinary market in a variety of formats: impregnated sheets or gauze, powders and pastes or gels including spray gels. They contain compounds known as colloids or hydrogels, or compounds that act as a matrix (or framework) to help the wound heal. There are a number of ways in which they help the healing process. Colloid dressings stay in place for several days to protect the wound, reduce contamination and absorb fluids and exudates. Hydrogels donate fluid to the wound and aid in healing by keeping the wound moist.

A number of other products have also been developed for treating wounds. There are products derived from aloe vera or kelp and products containing complexes of metals like tripeptide-copper. And there has been a resurgence in use of "old" remedies like applications of honey or sugar.

Nursing Care

Follow your veterinarian's advice in regards to rechecking the wound:

    • Regular, periodic rechecks of the wound will be important to ensure that healing is occurring and that there is no infection present. You can make use of all your senses: infected wounds will usually be malodorous, discharges may be increased in amount and appear thick and yellow to green, and the wound may be increasingly painful. An increase in swelling in the area could also indicate infection.
    • Clean the wound with sterile saline and re-bandage as recommended/required.
    • Give an analgesic (pain control) as prescribed by your veterinarian.

Depending on the type and extent of the injury, an appropriate amount and level of exercise is likely to help your horse feel better!