By Patricia Gail Burnham
I have bandaged a lot of Greyhound tails. Practice makes perfect, to the extent where I distrust the bandaging efforts of most veterinarians and if they bandage one of my dog’s tails, I am likely to redo the bandage.
Tail bandages are needed for split tail tips and cuts. There are two main concerns in bandaging. Too loose bandages will come off when a dog wags its tail. Too tight bandages can cut off circulation and cause the end of the tail to die.
So, I wasn’t thrilled when a freak accident wounded the very end of Traveler’s tail. I have an ironing board with a cover on it that is secured with a drawstring fastener. Traveler managed to thread his tail tip through the drawstring fastener which promptly cinched tight like a noose. Panicked at finding his tail bitten by the heavy ironing board, he started to run with the board still attached to his tail.
I came into the kitchen only to find him trying to run and leave his tail behind. I got my hand on his chest, and slid him back across the linoleum and freed his tail, but the damage had been done. The drawstring, which was as thin as fishing line, had cut into his tail to the bone, three quarters of the way around its circumference and half an inch up from the tip. It was bleeding like crazy, and he was still scared, so I made the mistake of letting him run through the kitchen to his dog room. If you are faced with a bleeding tail tip, always get a hold of it with a dish towel or paper towels, or your walls will look like a red Dalmation.
I calmed him down and applied pressure to the tail with a clean wash cloth to stop the bleeding. Then it was bandaging time. I trimmed the hair away from the cut and was dismayed to find that it ran most of the way around the tail, and there was a lot of bruising.Traveler has the cutest white tail tip, and I didn’t want to lose it.
I made a preliminary bandage, enough to get him to my vet, who was a little appalled at the injury and gave me a lecture about how hard tails are to heal and how injuries often lead to amputation of the tip. He also said that sometimes frequent bandaging will help. He had a client who changed the bandage every twelve hours. I wasn’t sure I was up to that, but every twenty four hours seemed reasonable. I wheedled him into prescribing some antibiotics, since the last thing we needed was an infection on top of the injury, and he also recommended using Nitrofuracin ointment.
He did a temporary bandage with Vetwrap, just enough to let us get home, and left me to do the serious bandaging. I stopped at two drugstores to pick up bandaging supplies: $100 worth of sterile gauze, Elasticon and Elastoplast.
Choosing the Right Wrapping
The gauze needs to be at least two inches wide. And it is cheaper if you use the four inch width, folded in half. Elasticon is a heavy tan stretch tape and is my first choice of tail bandaging. Elastoplast is a lighter white stretch bandage that, because of its lighter weight, doesn’t provide as much protection but is even more elastic. Not all drugstores carry these, and even those that do don’t carry many rolls. Elasticon can be ordered by mail order from many pet and livestock supply houses.
After that, our evenings took on a repetitive quality. I would put Traveler in the big bean bag, cut off the old bandage, run hot water on a clean washcloth and wrap the tail tip to let it soak in the heat. Hot-packing of the tail tip improves circulation, and circulation is the key to healing a tail. It also cleans the wound surface, forcing it to heal from inside.
The Healing Process
Traveler was wonderful about our evening date, gritting his teeth while I pulled the top inch of adhesive off his hair. After three or four refills of hot water on the washcloth, I would let the tail tip dry, pack it with Nitrofuracin ointment and rebandage it.
Nitrofuracin wound ointment is available in one pound jars from most horse supply companies. It is yellow and greasy and great stuff when it comes to healing minor wounds. Vets have been dispensing little jars of it to me for years before I found out where they were getting it.
Then we come to the actual details of a tail bandage; here’s my version. It takes one and a half rolls of four-inch wide gauze to wrap one tail, plus one two-inch wide roll of Elasticon. The first step is to double the gauze back on itself five times so you have a pad of gauze 4 inches wide by 6 inches long and five layers thick.
Fold that in half lengthwise so you have a strip two inches wide and six inches long. Lay the tail in lengthwise with the tip in the middle. Roll the gauze around the tail then fold the gauze at the midpoint, bringing the free end back down the tail so the tail tip is sitting in a three-inch long nest of gauze. Then wrap the remaining gauze around the bandaging, continuing up the tail, wrapping around the tail and moving up the tail an inch with each lap.
The gauze should be snug, but don’t pull it so tight that it cuts off circulation. Wrap the tail about a third of the tail length and then wrap back down the tail so there are multiple layers of gauze, and you have used the entire one and a half rolls.
Then get out the old Elasticon. Starting from an inch above the gauze, run the Elasticon down the tail, over the tip and back up the other side, ending an inch above the gauze. Fold the Elasticon around the tail. Then take another piece of Elasticon and, starting at the top of the Elasticon that is already in place, wrap it around the tail. Continue to wrap around the tail, working your way down to the top. If you have a lot of gauze and a very fat bandage, you may need to run a second piece of Elasticon lengthwise over the tip at right angles to the first one before doing the circular wrap.
For the first ten days, we rebandaged and hot-packed Traveler’s tail daily and were rewarded by seeing it heal with impressive speed. For the next ten days we went every other day, and at the end of that time, most of the cut was clear scar tissue and there was just a little nick in the side where the deepest cut had been. Better still, the bruising had healed and the tail tip was a nice healthy pink. The dark bruising had made me very nervous.
At this writing Traveler is still healing, and the new skin and scar tissue are fragile. I will keep his tail wrapped for another couple of weeks, just to keep him from splitting it open against a door frame. He still looks unhappy and leaves the room when I set up the ironing board.
I told my sister the details of the accident and about having to clean the blood off the kitchen walls, and she said dog people have problems more conventional people don’t encounter. That is true, but we also have joys that others don’t experience.
Bio – Gail Burnham has written hundreds of magazine articles, plus two dog training books illustrated with greyhounds, Playtraining Your Dog in 1981 and Treats, Play, Love: Make Dog Training Fun For You and Your Best Friend in 2008. She contributed regularly to Celebrating Greyhounds the first five years, most notably the Kira series which was a finalist in the Dog Writer’s Association writing contest. She won a DWAA award for the poem, The Red Bitch’s Hunt, which was part of a series of poems about Coventry and the Red Bitch. Currently she is retired, still writing about dogs, and is is living a very active life with the descendants of the original Tiger.
CG SP 97
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