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How to Wrap a Dog’s Shoulder

If your dog has a cut or bite on its shoulder or you think the shoulder is sprained, wrap it before taking your dog to the vet. Try to stop the bleeding of an open wound before you place a cotton bandage on it. Wrap the shoulder and chest to create a harness-type bandage. For a sprained shoulder, wrap an elastic bandage up and around your dog’s shoulder and front legs. Then get your dog immediate medical attention.


Stabilizing a Sprained Shoulder

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    Take action if you suspect a shoulder strain. If you notice that your dog is suddenly in pain or that their shoulder is gradually becoming more painful, look for other signs of a sprained shoulder. These can include:[1]

    • Licking the shoulder joint
    • Limping
    • Loss of appetite
    • Swollen joints or paws
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    Wrap sprains that limit, but don’t prevent, movement. Once you’ve determined your dog’s shoulder is sprained, pay attention to their range of movement. If the dog can still move their shoulder and leg, you can wrap the joint. If they can’t move the leg or joint, contact the vet immediately. Wrapping the shoulder could make the injury worse.[2]
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    Keep the dog standing and drape an elastic bandage over its back. The dog should be standing on all 4 legs. Unroll a long Ace-style elastic bandage and lay it over the dog’s back so both ends of the bandage hang evenly over its sides. The bandage should fall below the dog’s neck near its shoulder.[3]

    • You might need a helper to keep the dog standing still.
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    Pull the straps of the bandage under the dog’s chest. Use moderate tension to pull each bandage strap across and switch hands. For example, bring the right strap to your left hand and pull the left strap to your right hand.[4]
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    Wrap the straps around each of the dog’s legs. Bring each strap around the front of the dog’s legs near the joint. Wrap each strap around the leg 1 at a time using moderate tension. Avoid wrapping too tightly or you will cut off circulation to the leg. You should easily be able to slide your fingers under the bandage.
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    Bring the straps behind the legs and up to secure the bandage. Wrap each strap behind the legs and pull the straps up towards the dog’s back and shoulder. Tie a knot to keep the bandage from unraveling.[5]

    • Check to ensure that the bandage isn’t digging into the dog’s legs or back. If it is, you’ll need to loosen the bandage a little.
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    Call the vet if the sprain is moderate to severe. If your dog can’t move their shoulder or leg, contact the vet. You should also talk with the vet if your dog’s minor sprain hasn’t gotten better after 2 days of being stabilized by a wrap.[6]

    • The vet will do x-rays to check for fractures that could be preventing the shoulder from healing.


Wrapping an Open Wound

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    Keep the dog in standing position. Ask someone to help keep the dog in place so you can bandage the wound and wrap the shoulder. The dog should be standing so you can wrap the bandage under the dog’s torso.
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    Press a cotton bandage on the shoulder wound. Dab the wound gently with clean cotton gauze. Then cut a cotton bandage to fit the size of the wound and place it directly on the open wound. Press down firmly with 1 hand to slow any bleeding.[7]

    • Consider wearing gloves to prevent introducing germs to the wound.
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    Wrap an elastic bandage around your dog’s torso and shoulder. Press 1 end of the elastic bandage on your dog’s back near its shoulder. Pull the bandage down and under its torso before bringing it back up near the shoulder. Bring the bandage down over the covered wound and wrap it around the dog’s leg to keep the bandage in place. Repeat this a few times to stabilize the shoulder.[8]

    • Use moderate tension to avoid cutting off circulation.
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    Wrap the bandage behind the dog’s neck and under the torso. To create a harness-type bandage that secures the shoulder, pull the bandage behind the dog’s neck and down onto its chest. Bring the bandage behind the leg of the affected shoulder and back up behind the dog’s shoulder. Wrap the bandage around the leg a few times for support.

    • You should see a V-shaped bandage on the dog’s chest.
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    Secure the bandage with medical tape. Pull off a few inches of medical tape and cut it. Tape the bandage in place along the dog’s back so the bandage doesn’t unwind. You may need to use a few pieces. If you don’t have medical tape, you can use masking tape or another strong tape that you have around the house.

    • Some bandages come with butterfly closures that secure the elastic bandage in place.
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    Run your finger under the bandage to check the fit. Slide your index finger under the bandage near your dog’s leg and chest. You should be able to easily slide your finger under the bandage from the shoulder down across the chest. If you can’t, the bandage is too tight and you should wrap it more loosely.[9]
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    Get your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible. These instructions are only meant to help you provide immediate first aid when necessary. If your dog has a deep, bleeding wound or you suspect the dog has a shoulder fracture, it will need medical treatment.[10]

    • The vet will remove your dog’s shoulder wrap to clean and examine the wound. The dog may need x-rays, injections, or stitches.


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