Burns and Electric Shocks in Dogs
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.
A dog who gets an electric shock may be burned. The electric shock may cause
an irregular heartbeat with circulatory collapse, followed by cardiac arrest.
Electric current also damages the capillaries of the lungs and leads to the
accumulation of fluid in the air sacs, a condition called pulmonary edema.
A characteristic sign of electric shock injury is finding the unconscious
dog on the floor near an electrical outlet. Electric shocks cause involuntary
muscle contractions of the dog’s jaw that may prevent him from releasing his
hold on a live wire. Dogs who survive electric shock may cough,
have difficulty breathing, drool, have an offensive mouth odor, and have burns
in the mouth.
Treatment: If your dog is found in contact with an electric
cord or appliance, do not touch the dog. First shut off the main power and pull
the plug. If that’s not possible, use a piece of wood to move the source of the
electricity off the dog, or to move the dog away from the electricity. If the
dog is unconscious and is not breathing, administer artificial respiration or
if needed. Dogs who revive from electric shock should be seen by a veterinarian
Prevention: Electric cord shocks can be prevented by placing
cords in inaccessible locations, covering cords with plastic sleeves,
unplugging cords when not in use, and providing appropriate chewing toys for
puppies and dogs.