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Monday, October 6, 2014

The Dangers Of Rubber Band Bracelets

A recent fad among kids is rubber band bracelets, sometimes called loom bands.  I know that you've seen these, made of colorful small rubber bands that can be either bought or made.  My daughter has a loom and a kit and has made several of them.  Personally I think they are actually pretty neat (she made me one with black and yellow, Batman's colors!). But there is a hidden danger to them.

A client brought a shih-tzu to us for pain and limping.  The fur was really long and matted around the leg, but it was pretty obvious where the problem was.  We tried to get a better look, but the pain was so severe that she wouldn't let us touch it or even take x-rays.  It really looked like there might be broken bones due to the degree of pain and the fact that there was some swelling.  After sedating her, though, the true cause came to light.

Once she was sufficiently sedated I started looking at the paw and noticed that there seemed to be some scabbing.  Expecting a wound and worrying that bone might be protruding I started shaving the matted fur away.  That's when I noticed the linear wound.  And then I saw something green buried deep inside the wound and I realized what had happened.  It didn't take more than a few seconds to confirm my suspicion.  A small rubber band had tightened around the dog's wrist, cutting through the skin and digging down into the underlying tissues.

After clipping and cleaning, here is what the leg looked like.

Yes, this goes completely around the leg and was deep enough that I could see the muscles.  I was able to cut the band and remove it.  Here is the clear culprit.

If this had gone on much longer it would have started digging through the muscles and tendons, potentially causing permanent damage or requiring that the foot be amputated.  There was already infection and the skin was severely damaged, but there was still a chance of saving the foot.

I talked to the owner and informed her of what we found. She literally almost passed out.  Her youngest daughter had loom bands, and they had caught her trying to put the bands on the dog.  They had told her to stop, but it was obvious that she didn't.  One of those bands had been placed around the dog's wrist and caused severe damage and pain.

The story has a good ending, though.  I was worried that there was enough damage to the blood supply of the skin that the lower part of the paw might die and need amputation.  With bandage changes, antibiotics, and time, the leg fully healed and the dog did fine. But that woman's daughter got the scolding of her life!

When you have children, be sure to supervise them around your pets.  Something small and innocent can lead to severe, expensive problems.