Burns are caused by heat, chemicals, electric
shocks, or radiation. Hot liquids may scald a dog. Sunburn is an example of
a radiation burn. It occurs on the noses of dogs with insufficient pigment and
on the skin of
white-coated dogs who are clipped short in summer.
The extent of skin damage depends upon the length of exposure.
A first-degree burn causes the skin to become red, slightly swollen, and
painful. It usually heals in about five days.
A second-degree burn is deeper and there is blistering. These burns are
extremely painful. If there is no infection, healing is usually complete in 21
A third-degree burn involves the full thickness of skin and extends into the
subcutaneous fat. These burns appear charred, dry, and leathery. The hair comes
out easily when pulled. Deep burns, because they destroy nerve endings, usually
are not as painful as second-degree burns.
If more than 50 percent of the dog’s body surface is involved with
second-degree burns, or if more than 30 percent is involved with third-degree
burns, survival is unlikely.
Treatment: All but minor burns require professional attention. Protect the
area from further injury by wrapping it
with a loose-fitting damp gauze dressing and proceed at once to the veterinary
clinic. Extensive burns require intensive care to treat shock, adjust fluid and
electrolyte losses, and prevent secondary infection.
If your dog appears to be suffering from electrical shock, use a wooden
implement to slide any cords away from him before you touch him. Alternatively,
unplug all cords or turn off the circuit breakers so that you won’t get a shock
Small superficial burns that involve less than 5 percent of the body surface
can be treated at home. Apply cool compresses (not ice packs) for 20 minutes to
relieve pain and lessen the depth of the injury. Clip the coat over the burn
and wash the skin gently with a surgical antiseptic such as dilute
chlorhexidine solution. Apply a topical antibiotic ointment such as triple
antibiotic, and bandage the area. The bandage should be removed daily and the
wound medicated and redressed.
When acid, alkali, gasoline, kerosene, or other chemicals have caused the
burn, or even come in contact with the skin, immediately flush the area with
large amounts of water for 10 minutes. Wear rubber or plastic gloves and bathe
the dog with mild soap and water. Blot dry. If there are any signs of burning
(such as redness or blistering), call your veterinarian for further
Electric shock (electrocution) can occur when dogs bite electric cords or
come into contact with downed wires. A lightning strike is a rare cause of
electrocution, but a dog does not have to be struck to be seriously injured or
killed. A tall tree with deep roots and spreading branches can act as a conduit
for a bolt of lightning, conducting electricity through the ground to any
animal in the immediate vicinity. Most lightning strikes are fatal. The singed
hair and skin give evidence of the cause of death.