What to Do If Your Dog Receives an Electric Shock.
Electric shocks, otherwise known as electrocution, can be a life threatening situation for dogs. The most common way a dog can receive an electric shock is by chewing through cables. Other possible causes of electrocution are faulty wiring, fallen cables and, less commonly, lightning strikes. Holidays4dogs looks at what you can do if your dog receives an electric shock.
Electrocution happens when the animal effectively becomes part of an electrical circuit. It’s always vitally important to seek veterinary attention if you know, or suspect, your dog has received an electric shock. This is because there might not initially be any obvious signs of injury.
The passage of electricity through the body can cause effects that range from a slight tingle, to significant damage to internal organs. In addition, it can cause external burns, or complete cardiac arrest.
When animals come into contact with an electrical current, the outcome is influenced by the current and the voltage, but also the duration of the electrical flow.
Electricity can cause spasms in the muscles. In the case of a dog that has chewed through a live cable, this may mean he is unable to let go of the cord, since his jaws may clamp shut.
In this scenario, you must NEVER touch your dog since you will also be in danger of receiving an electric shock. The first step, if your dog is electrocuted is to ;-
TURN OFF THE ELECTRICITY AT THE SOURCE – THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.
Until this has been done, the dog should NOT be touched under any circumstance. If this is not possible, use a non-conductive material, such as a wooden broom handle to move the dog away from the electricity source.
If the dog is wet for any reason, caution should be taken. Water or urine will conduct electricity.
The dog should not be approached where high-voltage power cables are involved. Cables like this can ‘arc’, (jump) over a long distance; so stand well back. Contact with fallen power cables is likely to be fatal.
Administer first aid.
Once the dog is away from the electrical source, check to see if he is breathing. If not, you can begin CPR. You can learn how to do that by referring to instruction by the PDSA.
Check the dog over for burns. For dogs and puppies that have chewed electrical cables this will be inside and outside the mouth area, face and neck. However, be aware that burns may only be superficial injuries and the dog may have suffered more critical internal damage. It is important to get the dog to the vet as a matter of urgency.
Symptoms of electric shock in dogs.
- Muscular spasms/seizure.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Crying, whining.
It very much depends on the strength and duration of the electrical current as to what symptoms a dog will present with. Brief contact with a low voltage electrical source may only cause a tingling sensation. For example, electric stock fencing may cause an animal to experience a mild ‘shock’ on contact.
However, even weak electrical currents can cause extensive burns to the skin which can spread to internal tissue. Burns to the mouth in particular can become infected quite rapidly and may cause foul smelling breath.
More severe shocks can cause damage to the heart, brain and lungs. Contact with a high voltage electrical source is most likely to result in instant death.
Electricity can also severely damage the lungs causing them to fill with fluid. This, in turn, can make it difficult for the dog to breath and is often life threatening.
Treatment of electric shock in dogs.
Dogs injured by electrocution will need immediate veterinary attention. The dog with internal damage, will require x-rays.
Burns, especially if they occur in the mouth can cause complications because they can become infected. In some severe cases, the dog may need to be fed through a feeding tube, or have badly infected tissue removed. The dog may need to have any infection treated with antibiotics.
If the dog has an irregular heartbeat, drugs can given to help stabilize the situation. The dog may also suffer from shock and circulation issues. Dogs may also have a build-up of fluid in the lungs as a result of electrocution and if a dog has difficulty breathing, oxygen therapy will be provided.
Delayed onset electric shock.
Burns in the mouth may not be evident until the area becomes infected. In other cases, a build of fluid in the lungs can worsen gradually over a few days.
Symptoms of delayed onset electrocution may include;
- Excess drooling.
- Reluctance to eat or drink.
- Foul smelling breath.
Prevention of electric shock accidents.
Since the most common way a dog, or puppy can be electrocuted is from chewing cables; prevention is always better than the cure. While pups will investigate and chew cables – dogs of any age may do the same if left alone for long periods.
So that the dog cannot reach electrical cables, always tie them up out of the way. You can also try spraying cables and cords with bitter spray if it is not possible to remove them out of the dog’s reach.
When your dog is alone, always switch off power cables at the wall. Ensure the dog has appropriate chew toys to minimize the risk of him getting into trouble with wires and cables.
In a world where we rely so much on electrical items around the home, it is even more important to be aware of the hazards this can create for our pets. Taking some time to hide wires out of harms way can most definitely prevent serious injury, or potential fatality.