Given the almost constant use they are put to, a horse’s knees are vulnerable to stress, fatigue and traumatic injury. It may be that your veterinarian has recommended a knee bandage to help heal an injury or surgical site, or to provide support for a weak joint.
For whatever reason a knee bandage might be required, it is important to know the correct way to apply one so it serves its intended purpose and doesn’t harm the horse in any way.
Knee bandages can help in the following ways.
- Prevent or reduce swelling and edema
- Provide support for a weak or injured joint
- Reduce motion in the joint
- Protect a wound or surgical site from contamination or trauma
- Absorb fluids (exudate)
Because the front leg is relatively straight and the knee bends and straightens as the horse moves about, wrapping and securing the bandage will require some special know-how to keep the bandage from ending up around the horse’s pasterns like saggy socks.
Fortunately, most horses tolerate having a knee wrapped without much fuss. However, it is always good to stay alert and be prepared to move out of harm’s way should your horse fidget, stamp its feet or react adversely while being bandaged.
As with any type of leg wrap, a knee bandage can be hazardous if applied incorrectly. There is always the risk of constricting vessels, tendons and ligaments or causing pressure sores if the layers are not applied smoothly, evenly and with just the right amount of tension.
Of particular concern with a knee bandage is preventing undue pressure on the two prominent points at the back and inside of the knee. A bandage that’s too tight or incorrectly applied can cause sores to develop there.
If you have never bandaged a horse’s legs before, ask your veterinarian or an experienced equine professional to demonstrate the proper techniques. Practice under his or her supervision before doing it on your own.
Due to the leg’s columnar shape and the fact that it’s wider at the knee than at the cannon bone, you will be working against gravity. You will likely have the best success with bandaging materials that conform to the shape of the leg and permit movement without slipping or loosening. A good elastic adhesive tape will be needed to keep the bandage securely situated over the knee.
If the bandage will cover a wound or surgical site, the materials should also be sterile. You will need:
- Sterile, non-stick gauze pads or dressing to cover wounds
- Sheet cotton, roll cotton, combine cotton,or leg quilts for padding
- Flannels, stretch gauze, stable wraps or stretch bandaging tape such as 3M'” Vetrap'” Bandaging Tape at least 2-3 inches wide for support
- Stretch adhesive tape such as Elastikon'” Elastic Adhesive Tape to protect, seal and secure the bandage
- Cover the wound or surgical site with sterile, non-stick gauze or dressing.
- Surround the knee with soft, absorbent material, such as roll or sheet cotton, combine sheet or leg quilts, creating a layer of padding at least 1 inch thick. Extend it 4-6 inches above and below the knee and make sure it lies flat and wrinkle-free against the skin.
- Begin wrapping with support bandaging fabric 4-6 inches below the knee and approximately one-half inch above the lower edge of the padding.
- Wrap front to back, outside to inside, spiraling upward while exerting just enough pull to stretch the fabric to half its maximum extended length.
- Overlap each preceding layer by 50 percent using smooth, uniform tension to compress the padding without forming lumps or ridges beneath the bandage.
- Work up the leg until the bandage extends 4-6 inches above the point of the knee, covering the padding to within a half-inch of the edge.
- Depending on the nature and location of the injury, your veterinarian will advise whether or not to cover the accessory carpal bone at the back of the knee. It may be necessary to cut out a hole in the bandage, or create a donut shaped pad, over this point to prevent pressure sores.
- When bandaging, use enough pressure to minimize swelling and keep the bandage in place, but never wrap so tightly that you cannot easily slip a finger between the bandage and the leg.
- Do not wrap too loosely as the bandage may slip or fail to do its job.
- Secure and seal the bandage using a veterinary stretch adhesive tape at the top and bottom.
- If the bandage is to remain in place for a time, or is being used to protect a wound or surgical site, it may be advisable to completely cover the support wrap with a protective layer to prevent dirt and debris from contaminating the bandage.
- If you have problems with the knee bandage slipping, begin by wrapping the lower leg from coronet band to several inches below the knee.* This”stack wrap” provides a foundation for the knee bandage and will help keep it in place. Some situations may also call for a full length bandage (ground to elbow) to adequately restrict motion at the knee.
A horse with a condition requiring a knee bandage should be confined to a stall or small run unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian.
Check the bandage several times a day to make sure it has not tightened, loosened or slipped out of place.
Make sure the bandage does not cut off circulation, compress tendons, create pressure sores (especially over the accessory carpal bone), or cause skin irritation, redness or discomfort.
Check by making sure a finger can easily be slipped beneath the bandage.
Monitor and evaluate the horse carefully. If the swelling develops above or below the bandage, lameness increases, or the horse becomes distressed or begins to bite, paw or rub the bandaged site, check the leg and/or contact your veterinarian.
Watch for any other signs of ill health. IF the horse becomes depressed, irritable, loses its appetite or has an elevated temperature, consult your veterinarian.
Change the bandage as directed by your veterinarian or at least every 2-3- days, or immediately if it becomes wet or soiled.
The AAEP Mission Statement
To improve the health and welfare of the horse, to further the professional
development of;its members, and to provide resources and, leadership
for the benefit of the equine industry.
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