Basic bandage care at home is very important. Bandages can be as hurtful as they can be helpful if they slip, become wet or dirty, draw the patients attention to the site, are too tight, neglected, etc. Bandages must be assessed several times daily to be sure they are intact, dry and clean. A dirty and/or moist bandage against warm skin provides the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Very severe skin infections and incisional infections (if an incision is present under the bandage) can occur in this situation, often requiring prolonged antibiotic therapy and potentially surgical debridement.
Bandages that slip can fail to support the area they were intended to support and can cause restriction or damage to a new area. For example, a bandage around the abdomen can shift forward and restrict normal breathing. A bandage over a knee incision can slide down and leave the incision unprotected and the knee unsupported.Marking the areas where the bandage was placed so that you can check daily for movement may be a good idea.
If a bandage is applied too tightly or slips and restricts a site, adequate circulation can be interrupted, creating discomfort and damage/death to the tissues. Sliding a finger under the bandage routinely is a rough way to assess how tight the bandage is. Swelling above or below the bandage is a good indicator that it is too tight (for example, swollen toes on a bandaged limb). Signs of discomfort or chewing at the site can also indicate a bandage that is too tight.
The bandage itself may draw the patient’s attention to the site and lead to licking or chewing at the bandage and possibly the skin beneath. An E-collar should be left on at all times if a patient shows any interest in their bandage or if they are to be left alone and not monitored all day/night. Licking and chewing can moisten the bandage and can make the injury beneath worse. Additionally, ingestion of bandage material can lead to intestinal obstruction and potentially the need for surgery to get the bandage material out.
If there is any doubt about the cleanliness, dryness, position, etc. of a bandage, a veterinarian should assess it as soon as possible. Please do not try to fix or replace a bandage at home as there is a certain art to bandaging, and replacing it on your own can cause further complications.
The importance of monitoring a bandage cannot be stressed enough.