First Aid: How to treat a cat for burns

Although the fur on your cat will give her some protection from skin damage, it is still possible for her to sustain considerable injury if she gets burned.

It is also possible for your cat to suffer a burn without it being noticeable, particularly if she has a long coat.

Most cat burns are related to their paws. This can be caused by walking on a hot pavement or even a hob when you have finished cooking. Chemical burns can also occur if your cat walks on a surface you have treated with bleach.

In the case of a chemical burn, it may take a while to produce enough discomfort in your cat for you to notice. During which time she may have licked the area, so make sure you inform your vet if you suspect a chemical burn.

Types of burn

There are three types of burn which can occur with cats:

  • Coming into contact with something hot, either a liquid or object
  • Coming into contact with a corrosive chemical
  • Coming into contact with an electrical source

There are three grades of burn, measured as follows:

  • First degree – the skin is unbroken but  has been burned slightly
  • Second degree – the skin is broken, blistered and/or inflamed
  • Third degree – little skin remains, bleeding, weeping

How to treat burns on a cat

In all cases of burn you should provide first aid until you can get your cat to the vet. Where possible, while you are treating your cat get a friend or family member to phone the veterinarian and let them know you’ll be bringing your cat to the surgery. Ask for further advice on how to proceed.

Let’s take a look at how to treat burns on a cat based on severity and type of burn:

First degree burns

  • Liquid – It is important to cool the burned area as quickly as possible to reduce the damage, therefore apply cool water to the burned area either by pouring water from a jut or shower attachment. If using a cloth to apply the water, use a lint free cloth to avoid particles of cloth being left in the wound. Apply a cold compress to the area once flushed clean.
  • Chemical – if the burn is on the body, flush the area for 15-20 minutes to prevent the burn from spreading. Wear protective gloves to protect your own skin. If the burn is in the mouth, restrain your cat so you do not get scratched lay her head to one side and pour cool water from a jug through her mouth, taking care that she does not inject any of the chemically contaminated water.
  • Electrical – Eliminate the chances of further electrocution by switching off the power source before proceeding with treatment, and continue as with liquid burns.

Second and third degree burns

Because of the seriousness of the injury there is a chance your cat may go into shock. This has to be dealt with promptly as severe shock can result in death.

Indicators of shock are initial rapid heartbeat and shallow breathing, followed by an increased heartbeat. Pulse may be difficult to find. Other symptoms of shock in a cat are lethargy combined with rapid shallow breathing.

In the late stages of shock the cat may begin to lose consciousness. If this happens, you must get her to the vet immediately.

The first aid for second and third degree burns is to apply a clean dressing. If no surgical dressing is available any sheet or cotton towel will do as long as it is clean and does not shed fibres. Fibres can get into the wound and cause further problems.

Seek veterinarian assistance immediately, especially if you are in doubt.

You must remain calm when treating your cat to help her stay calm and reduce the risk of her going into shock.

Do not be tempted to apply any ointment, butter, or oil to the area that has been burned.

Always restrain your cat in such a way that you will not get injured yourself.

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Gina & David

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