Burns appear to be fairly uncommon in our pets. The commonest cause is friction injuries where the animal is hit by a car then dragged along the road or falling from a ute and being dragged behind it. Other causes are direct heat (open flame, hot liquids or objects), chemical spills or rarely electricity.
SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS
Burns can be
- superficial (first degree) where the skin will be painful to touch, red, and may blister.
- second degree where again the animal will experience pain, the skin will turn dry and tan in colour and there will be local swelling.
- deep (third degree) where the fur will pull out easily. The skin may appear pure white, or black if charred. The area may not be painful to touch due to nerve damage and the animal may go into shock.
Animals with burns need veterinary attention unless the burns are very mild. This is mostly because it is hard to assess how serious a burn is and also because the fur needs to be removed to allow treatment. However only serious burns need urgent veterinary treatment. A serious burn is where the animal is in severe pain or going into shock; where the burn is deep, or a large area of skin is involved, or if the burn involves the airways or face.
- Run cold water over the effected area or apply cold packs for up to 15 minutes or until the body part has returned to normal temperature.
- Do not apply any lotions, ointments or oily dressings.
- Do not overcool the animal. If the animal is starting to shiver then stop applying the cold water.
- Cover the wound if it is extensive or the animal is licking at it. Use a non-stick dressing. Do not use cotton wool.
Animals are sometimes involved in house fires. The animal may need emergency oxygen therapy at the scene and should be transported to your veterinarian for follow up treatment.
- Thoroughly wash the area with a large volume of flowing water for up to 20 minutes. If necessary wash with a mild soap (such as velvet laundry soap). Repeat as many times as necessary to remove the chemical. Wear rubber gloves and avoid contaminating yourself.
- Chemcial burns break down the protein in the skin. Pour milk over the burn or paint the area with egg white. This gives the substance something else to break down instead of your pet's flesh.
- Cover the area with a non-stick dressing or apply an Elizabethan collar (see Making an Elizabethan collar) to prevent the animal ingesting the chemical.
- Seek veterinary advice.
Electrical burns tend not to damage the superficial skin so there may be little to see while the deep structures can be badly damaged. Medical advice should be sought for all electrical burns.
- Be careful of any live wires and turn off power if possible
- Remove yourself and the animal from danger.
- If the animal has been electrocuted and is not breathing start resuscitation immediately.
- Cool the burnt area under running water.
- Apply a non-stick dressing.