Tape: a valuable item in the veterinary toolbox

As a qualified veterinarian, I work primarily with horses in my practice. Among the many valuable items in my veterinary toolbox is tape. I often get questions and requests for assistance with other animals besides horses, so I have used the elastic taping skills from my training with large animals to develop some principles for dogs.

Whether working with humans, horses or small mammals, the general concepts for using tape remain similar. We utilize tape in many ways – for cases of chronic or acute pain; postural control and biomechanics; circulatory and lymphatic conditions; injuries and protection of tendons, ligaments and joints; conditions of fascia and scarring; and for seeking muscular homeostasis. Elastic taping shows both immediate and long-term effects, either solving the issue up front or increasing patient compliance for further care (we know that patient compliance is always going to be an issue).

In general, taping is an adjunct therapy that may be used in conjunction with other techniques such as cryotherapy, hydrotherapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, electrotherapy and micro-physiotherapy (figure 1). The tape may be applied over the animal’s coat if it is not too heavy (figure 2). For some lymphatic and pain control applications, it might be advisable to shave the treatment area, although this is less of an issue with newer canine-specific tape. In any case, it is important to use the correct tension (stretch) and application methodology, and the hair should be very clean.

Figure 1 and 2

Figure 3 and 4

Taping works through the endogenous analgesic system (figure 3). We look for a variety of results: we may modulate pain by bandaging through the skin and adjacent tissues; we may apply compressive and decompressive forces to control the pain message; and we may improve communication of the sensory-motor cortex, thus inhibiting the recognition of pain. For the circulatory/lymphatic system, the tape acts on the skin via its elastic effect (figure 4). This can promote movement between tissues, assist in self-regulation of interstitial fluid, normalize temperature and provide objective control of pain, edema and bruising.

One simple muscular technique, as an example, would be facilitation of the gluteus area. This taping might address both gait and pain issues as part of a program of care (figure 5). First, measure a length of tape in the area shown. Begin the application by anchoring the unstretched end of the tape strip on the upper pelvis (figure 6). Apply with moderate stretch, no more than 35% (figure 7). Finish on the femoropatellar joint with no stretch at the very end (figure 8). This application is designed to encourage movement in the affected area (figure 9). Taping exampleIf your patient assessment indicates that it is better to discourage movement in that muscle group, here is an alternative: you can modify the above application by reversing the tape direction; anchor at the joint and draw the tape upwards.

Education in proper taping techniques will enable many happy outcomes for canine patients. With the advent of new canine tape, we foresee even greater results! For tape options and infromation visit Kinesio Canine.

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