How to Bandage Your Dog the Right Way So It Stays Put

Unfortunately, you can’t say “Stay” to your dog’s bandage, but you can use these tricks and tools to help keep it on.

Updated July 8, 2023
French Bulldog with its paw bandaged.

Bandages on dogs don't stay on nearly as well as they do on people. If you've ever tried, you know a dog's fur and body shape make it difficult to get a bandage to stay put. Not to mention, dogs aren't good at keeping bandages clean, which means you'll want to place the bandage on in such a way that it can be changed easily. This poses a dilemma: how best to cover a wound so it will heal without falling off or being chewed?

RELATED: Doggy SOS: What to Include in Your Dog First Aid Kit

Dog Bandaging Techniques for Specific Areas

Depending on the part of the dog's body you need to bandage, it can be challenging to find a way to keep the bandage stable. Vets and vet techs learn specific techniques to work on these areas that you can follow, as well.

Quick Tip

Before using any of these techniques, consider using a muzzle for your dog if you feel they are in pain and won't tolerate the procedure well. You can also give treats to reinforce your dog for keeping calm.

How to Bandage a Dog's Nail

If a dog damages or tears a toenail, bandaging can keep the area safe from further harm. You can make a dog paw bandage protector for the area with a combination of gauze pads and Vet Wrap.

How to Wrap a Dog's Paw

If a dog has an injury to their paw, such as a sprain or an open wound, you can learn how to wrap your dog's paw with gauze and Vet Wrap to keep the foot stable until you get to the vet.

How to Bandage a Dog's Leg

Bandaging a dog's entire leg is a similar process to bandaging the paw. You can use cotton padding to protect the dog's limb with a layer wrapped around the paw and the wound dressing. Follow up with a layer of Lastotel padding and a covering layer of Vet Wrap.

How to Bandage a Dog's Torso

The easiest way to wrap a dog's torso with a bandage is to have the dog standing up with another person helping to gently restrain them. Place padding on the wound or area of concern and wrap around the belly and/or chest.

How to Keep a Dog Bandage On

Placing the bandage is only the beginning; the real challenge comes in keeping the bandage in place. Fortunately, there are things you can do to try to help keep the bandage on for as long as possible. Here are a few tips about how to keep bandages on a dog:

  • Make sure the injured area is dry before applying bandage materials.
  • Keep your dog indoors most of the time when wearing a bandage.
  • Take your pet out to use the bathroom on a leash rather than allowing them to run out in the yard unsupervised.
  • Take care to keep the bandage dry by covering it with a plastic bag of some type when it is necessary to take your dog outside.
  • Consider putting an Elizabethan collar on your dog if they attempt to chew off the bandages as quickly as you apply them. Consult your veterinarian before making the decision to take this step.
Need to Know

Keeping bandages on your pet is no easy task, but it's well worth the effort to make sure your pup heals properly.

Chihuahua getting bandaged at the vet.

Products to Help Dog Bandages Stay Put

All too often, your dog plays a role in pulling off a perfectly comfortable dressing. Clever use of appropriate products can reduce this frustrating complication.

  • Buster Collars: Also known as Elizabethan collars, e-collars, lampshades, or the "cone-of-shame," these tools prevent a dog from chewing a bandage on any part of the body.
  • Neck Braces: An inflatable neck brace prevents a dog from getting access to their chest, body, or upper limb, but isn't that useful in protecting a paw.
  • Protective Boots: These are protective boots or garments, such as Medipaw or Surgi-Sox, which slide over the top of a bandage to protect it from chewing. These are available for limbs and also as body wraps to protect the chest or belly area.
  • Vet Wrap: Vet Wrap is a self-adhesive dog bandage that is available at most pet supply stores. It comes in many colors and is an extremely useful part of any first aid kit for dogs and even humans.

Veterinary Tips for Keeping the Bandage On

In addition to these tools, vets and vet techs use special techniques you can mimic at home.

Using "Stirrups"

Bandages on limbs or paws are particularly prone to slipping off, so it's important to learn how to wrap a dog's leg. The use of stirrups reduces the risk of slippage. "Stirrups" are lengths of adhesive tape applied directly to the paw with part of the strip protruding from the dressing.

During the final layers of bandaging, the protruding end is turned back on itself to be caught in the dressing itself. The last winds of Vet Wrap are applied over the top to anchor everything together.

Do it yourself at home: To create stirrups, cut two 6 to 10-inch lengths of adhesive tape. Approximately half that length is stuck to the paw, with the other 3 to 5 inches dangling off the end of the paw. One strip is applied along the dorsal (top surface) of the paw, with the second on the ventral (bottom side) of the paw.

Quick Tip

Be aware that repeated use of adhesive stirrups can cause skin sores. This can be reduced by applying in a slightly different place at each dressing change.

Using "Garters"

Garters of adhesive tape may be used on limbs or the tail to provide an anchor point for a dressing. The idea is to apply a layer of adhesive tape so that it circles around the limb directly onto the fur.

Do it yourself at home: To decide on the garter placement, first plan where the dressing will end on the limb. Then wind a length of Elastoplast around the limb so that one or two-inches would be exposed once the dressing is in place.

Follow the earlier instructions to apply the bandage. The final step is then to wind a finishing round of adhesive bandage around the dressing so that it overlaps the garter. Thus, the top tape is half on the dressing and half on the garter.

The advantage of this method is that the adhesive tape stops the bandage slipping down. Plus, each time you change the bandage, the sticky tape remains in place on the leg; thus, your dog doesn't have the canine equivalent of a leg wax by constantly removing sticky tape from their fur. Ouch!

How to Bandage a Dog

When a dog has any type of wound, whether it's a small cut to stitches or a sore from a lick granuloma, it's essential to keep the area clean and protected from licking. In some cases, a bandage is the best option because of the support it offers, but in other cases, it's best to leave the area open to the air to help it heal (while preventing licking).

Your vet will advise which is best for your dog's problem. If your vet has given you the green light, follow these steps to bandage your dog:

1. Collect the Proper Dog Bandage Supplies

A good start to bandaging your pup is to have the right materials that are designed for the job. A basic canine first aid kit for the well-prepared pet parent should include:

These items are readily available from your vet clinic, pet supply store, pharmacist, or even online.

2. Cover Any Wounds

Before bandaging your dog's wound, thoroughly clean the affected area. Apply any disinfecting medication recommended by your veterinarian, and place an absorbent non-stick pad over the area.

Wind a layer of cotton wadding around the affected area in a few layers (two or three are sufficient for wounds, multiple layers for a support dressing), making sure that it is firmly applied. Follow the same procedure with layers of gauze bandage, making sure that it isn't too loose or tight.

3. Aim for Moderate Bandage Tension

A key to dog bandage stability is the correct tension on the dressing. This is an art as well as a science. If you apply the bandage too loosely, it will slip off. If it's too tight, the circulation to the area is impaired. Experienced vet techs (the experts on dressings) achieve the perfect bandage tension using a combination of several layers of firmly applied cotton wadding topped by layers of gauze with moderate tension applied.

Need to Know

Be sure that you can just barely fit the tips of two of your fingers under each layer of the bandage material to ensure that it is applied with the proper amount of tension.

4. Finish with Vet Wrap

Most dog bandages end with a layer of Vet Wrap to keep them protected, but Vet Wrap does require special handling. Its elasticity makes it self-tighten once applied. To avoid this, unwind a long enough length to pass around the area to be bandaged. Then wind this around the area with the bandage in a "neutral," unstretched state.

Need to Know

Be aware that Vet Wrap can shrink when wet, so an already snug bandage can become too tight if it gets wet. Hence, avoid wrapping Vet Wrap too tightly and cover any areas that are liable to get wet with a plastic bag.

5. Watch for Signs the Bandage Is Too Tight

A loose bandage will slip off, which makes it tempting to create a firm bandage. However, cutting off circulation to the area carries potentially serious consequences. Watch for signs of tightness immediately after placing the bandage as well as in the days following placement. Signs a dressing is too tight include:

  • Swelling above or below the dressing
  • Swollen toes
  • Excessive chewing or licking of the dressing
  • Chewing or gnawing the area at the far end of the dressing
  • Restlessness, inability to settle, whining
  • Aggression when the dressing is handled
  • A bad smell coming from the bandage

If you are uncertain, it is far better to remove the bandage and start again than risk impaired circulation and gangrene.

Use Several Strategies for Best Results

A poorly applied bandage will slip even if you use Surgi-Sox. Likewise, the perfect bandage won't stand up to a sustained chew attack. The answer is to combine as many strategies as possible to get the bandage-gods to smile kindly upon you. A combination of good materials, excellent technique, and making it hard for your dog to undo your handiwork will get you set for bandaging success.

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How to Bandage Your Dog the Right Way So It Stays Put