If your dog or cat is lame, and you get referred to Northwest Surgeons, you are likely to see one of the orthopaedic team. Some lame patients have fractures or ligament damage and have a dressing placed by the referring vet for support. Some cases may have damage to the skin and tendons in the leg, and a dressing is applied to cover and protect these. In the management of wounds at Northwest Surgeons your pet can benefit from the expertise of our soft tissue surgery specialist Catherine Sturgeon. Equally some of the cases seen at Northwest Surgeons require management by the placement of a dressing and may be sent home from the hospital with a dressing in place to protect the skin, soft tissues or healing bones.
Having seen some complications recently, we felt that some general advice on dressings may be of use. Many of the complications seen are avoidable.
• It is always worthwhile considering that a complication with a dressing, however trivial it may seem, is worth reporting as some complications can develop into limb-threatening problems.
• If a dressing is properly applied then the patient should be comfortable. We feel that a dressing should be well tolerated if it is comfortable. If your dog or cat is chewing or licking the dressing, this should raise doubts about the comfort. If the dressing is uncomfortable it may be putting pressure in areas it shouldn’t and complications can arise.
• Contact a vet you have any concerns.
• Keep the dressing dry. This can be achieved by applying a plastic bag or specially designed boot (which can be ordered from a vets or on-line) over the dressing to stop it get wet when walking on damp ground.
• Monitor the dressing for signs of the dressing slipping. The dressing will slip down the leg so watch the toes (if they are visible) and if you can no longer see them then the dressing is likely to have slipped. Also look at the top of the dressing, is it possible to see part of the leg which you couldn’t originally?
• Monitor for swelling. This is often seen in the toes, if they are visible, but can also be seen at the top of the leg.
• Monitor the dressing for abnormal smells. This could indicate a problem and the dressing probably will require changing.
• Ignore your pet if they start to chew at the dressing. If the dog or cat seems to be paying more attention to the dressing than normal then it probably is uncomfortable and needs to be changed.
• Allow the dressing to get wet and not seek veterinary attention. The foot can become damp and start to fester if left unattended.
• Leave the plastic cover in place after the animal has been outside as the foot can become sweaty and damp.
• Ignore any abnormal smells.
• Ignore a dressing if it has slipped.
Once a dressing has been applied and an animal is sent home with the dressing in place, we, as vets, can no longer control what happens to the dressing. It is therefore requires excellent ownership to carefully monitor and protect a dressing. But between the team at Northwest Surgeons and your own vet, we are here to help. Northwest Surgeons is staffed 24-7 by a Veterinary Surgeon so there is always advice at hand.
As vets we would much rather be contacted about a problem and find out it is a minor concern and nothing to worry about, rather than seeing a dog or cat where a dressing problem had arisen, nothing was done initially, and the problem becomes major and we find nothing more can be done to save the limb. Luckily, these cases are rare but they do happen and we all need to be aware of the potential risks.General