You will notice that athletes all over the world wear colorful tape on their arms and legs. This is part of treatments to prevent injury, heal muscle strains, reduce pain and improve performance.
Kinesiology tape was created in late 1970s by Kenzo Kase (D.C.). Dr. Kase donated Kinesio Tape at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Although tape was unusual in 1970s Japan, it is now a common practice for athletes competing. Taping isn’t just for athletes. It’s also popular with horses, dogs and other animals. Taping could make a big difference in the lives of your dog.
Kinesiology tape, also known as elastic therapeutic tap or kinesiology therapeutic tap, is made from thin elastic cotton and an acrylic adhesive. Kinesiology tape is distinguished from elastic bandages, which reduce blood flow and apply pressure to prevent swelling. Kinesiology tape does not restrict movement. It can be placed for many days, unlike elastic bandages.
Kinesiology tape can be stretched when it’s applied. Once in place, it contracts like a rubberband that pulls on the skin. This action is said to increase blood flow and lymph circulation, which speeds up healing.
Is Kinesiology Taping Effective?
Taping research is still in its infancy. The evidence thus far is not conclusive. PubMed (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) cites more than 200 clinical trials that tested kinesiology taping on humans, most of which concluded that the tape did little to improve sports performance, prevent injuries, relieve pain, or improve proprioception, strength, flexibility, circulation, blood flow, or lymphatic drainage, all of which are commonly made claims. The studies were all small and did not involve dogs.
This lack of evidence has not stopped some advertisers from making exaggerated claims. It is important to remember that kinesiology tapping is not a miracle cure, it doesn’t work for everyone and it isn’t a replacement for veterinary diagnosis or treatment.
However, veterinarians and canine rehabilitation therapists as well as canine massage therapists who use kinesiology taping report that their patients have improved. Taping can easily be incorporated into other treatments and most dogs are quick to adapt. It can also be used at home by loved ones between visits.
Angelique Barbara, D.C. is a chiropractor for humans. Her training includes a bachelor’s in veterinarian science and a masters in veterinary pathobiology. She specializes in hands on treatments for horses and dogs. Her online program for health-care professionals and pet owners includes courses in canine kinesiology taping (see holisticanimalstudies.org).
Dr. Barbara says, “I believe kinesiology tape to be a wonderful modality that is underutilized with animals.” I would love to see it more popular among pet owners. Taping is a great way to relieve pain and give support. It can also help pets heal quicker and prevent injury.
Kinesiology tape is often cut into four main shapes by users. Each one provides support in a unique way for a particular purpose.
HOW TO USE KINESIOLOGY TAPE
Kinesiology tape comes in two-inch widths and is available in a 13-to-16-foot roll. Precut shapes and sizes are also available. Precut shapes are convenient for humans, but they don’t always match the anatomy of dogs. A two-inch roll might be a good choice for you and your dog. There are many different adhesive strengths and stretch capabilities, making it difficult to find the right tape for you. While some brands are specifically designed for horses or dogs, others can be used for humans. Taping dogs can be difficult due to their furry coats. If your dog is prone to getting wet, you should look for tapes that are extra-sticky or suitable for horses.
Dr. Barbara says that it is crucial for dog owners to be familiar with kinesiology tape before they attempt to tape their dogs. There are certain ways to cut the tape and how to handle it that will make the process easier. The better experience for the applicant will be if they are able to work with the tape. Kinesiology tape has the great advantage of being a safe modality. If you don’t get the application that you want, you can easily remove the tape and start over.
You will need a roll of kinesiology or a piece of tape to practice cutting basic shapes using non-stick scissors. The adhesive can build up on your regular scissors, making it difficult to cut. Rounding off the ends and removing any sharp corners is the first step. Your dog’s size, as well as the area you are treating will determine how long your strips should be.
An “I” Strip is one piece of tape with rounded edges. The “I” Strip is a single piece of tape with rounded edges.
Kinesiology tape’s paper backing is easy to tear. You can expose the adhesive by pulling the tape from one end to the other until its paper backing is broken. Or, you can hold the tape vertically until it separates from its paper backing.
Taping is a crucial part of the process. But how much should the tape stretch to achieve this? Most brands use percentages such as 10, 20, 50 or 100 stretch. Katja Bredlau Morich, an animal physiotherapist, prefers to use the terms light, medium and strong. It takes time and practice to become familiar with stretch, she writes in her colorfully illustrated book Kinesiology Taping for Dogs. She also explains that the kinesiology tape includes a 10% prestretch on its paper backing. This 10% stretch is sufficient for most dog taping applications.
Canine muscles and fascia are responsive to tape that has been gently stretched. Tendons and ligaments respond well to light-to medium stretch. Bones and joints respond well to moderate-to heavy stretch. Too much stretch can cause discomfort and irritation in many cases.
You can practice stretching your kinesiology tap to get used to it. Then, press the tape onto a practice surface. Rub the tape to activate the adhesive. Kinesiology tape can’t be reused. If you aren’t comfortable applying the tape correctly or if you have any questions about how to apply it, you should remove it. Use fresh tape for your dog.
Taping instructions generally recommend that the tape be left in place until it is removed on its own. If it remains in place after three to four days, you can remove it manually. You can remove the tape by gently pressing down with one hand and pulling fur with the other. Do not pull the tape off. Use gentle, steady movements instead to remove the tape.
WHEN NOT TO TAPE
Kinesiology tape can be used on dogs but should not be applied to a skin condition, inflammation, open wound, lesion or malignant tumor. Before applying tape to a pregnant dog, dogs suffering from diabetes, respiratory problems, breathing difficulties, or ringworm, consult your veterinarian.
Dogs with kidney disease, cancer or other conditions that can be made worse by increased blood flow or lymph circulation should not tap.
If your dog is showing discomfort, you should immediately remove the tape.
Sometimes a dog will chew off or swallow a piece tape. If this happens, check to make sure that the tape passes through your dog’s body and call your veterinarian immediately.
PREPARING YOUR DOG
Kinesiology tape is a popular option for dog owners who want to stabilize torn ligaments in their knees.
Your dog’s coat must be dry and clean. Dust, dirt, hair, humidity, dampness, and moisture can all interfere with adhesion. Bredlau Morich suggests bathing your dog at least one day before taping. This will allow the coat to dry completely. She also warns against using detangling sprays or similar grooming products before taping.
Short haired dogs are the easiest to tape, but dogs with medium or long hair can be taped. She says, “I have taped Australian Shepherds and Poodles without having to clip their hair.” The tape held well and you could immediately see a difference in their gait and posture.
Taping hair that is very long is difficult because of its length, Bredlau Morich suggests trimming the hair but not slicing the affected areas. Leave about a half inch of hair to rest flat on the body.
Some tape instructions suggest that you apply a medical adhesive spray to tape that doesn’t stick to the dog’s hair. Bredlau Morich recommends that you remove the tape and spread baby powder on the area. After a few minutes, wipe it off with a microfiber cloth. Once the powder has been removed completely, dry the hair and make sure the skin is not greasy or oily.
Dr. Barbara says that kinesiology tapping is very effective in treating general back pain, hind-limb weakness and knee pain. These tapes can be applied quickly and effectively by most owners with minimal guidance.
In an online demonstration (see bit.ly/WDJ_knee_support), Dr. Barbara tapes a dog’s knee to provide support and stability using Rock Tape made for horses. She explains that it is extra sticky and works well for dogs, especially when we are taping the joint.
After cutting a Y-strip, she takes the backing paper from the base. Dr. Barbara bends her knee to reveal the patella (kneecap), as many people mistake the dog’s ankle with the knee joint. After placing the base portion of the Y on the knee joint, slightly below the patella (or the patella), she peels and presses the backing paper from both Y strips to the legs above the knee. Next, she adds an anchor or stabilizer to the tape by removing most of the backing paper from an I-strip before stretching it by 50% and pressing it onto the patella. To activate the glue, she rubs the tape.
Dr. Kenzo Kase’s book Kinesio Taping Canine For Dog Lovers demonstrates how to tape forelimb injuries and biceps injuries. He also demonstrates how Achilles tendon, cruciate ligaments and knee joints. Whiplash, abnormal spinal curvature and many other conditions can be found in his book Kinesio Taping Canine. Each instruction is illustrated by photographs and anatomical drawings. They show the injury and how to apply tape to it.
Katja Bredlau Morich illustrates many taping applications in her book. These include the taping of muscle and lymph, scars and fascias, tendons and hematomas. The book ends with detailed case studies.
We’ll see more dogs sporting tape as kinesiology taping for dogs becomes more popular and continues to be researched. You can find out more by reading books, videos, reports and descriptions written by experienced instructors. It is possible that you will be inspired to learn how tape can be applied to your body.
Use Kinesiology Tape on Your Dog Whole Dog Journal.