First Aid: How to treat a dog for burns

Although your dog’s fur affords some protection from skin damage, it is still possible for your dog to sustain considerable injury when it comes to burns. It is also possible for your dog to suffer a burn without it being noticeable, particularly if your dog has a long or double coat.

Related: All articles on dog first aid.

Types of burn

There are three types of burn which your dog can sustain;

  • 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 also 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

Treatment of burns

First degree burns

If your dog has a first degree burn, where the skin is unbroken but has been burned slightly, then take the following steps depending on the type of burn:

  • 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 and contact your veterinarian on how to proceed.
  • 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 dog has tried to eat something contaminated with a chemical, lie him on his side and pour cool water through the area with a cup or garden hose providing a constant stream of water to wash the chemical residue away, ensure the dog does not ingest any of the chemical contaminated water. Contact your veterinarian on how to proceed.
  • 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 dog may go into shock, and 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 increase in heartbeat, pulse difficult to find, lethargy and rapid shallow breathing.

In the late stages of shock the dog may begin to lose consciousness and a pulse may be difficult to find. If your dog has gone into shock, you must get him 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 which can cause problems later.

Seek veterinarian assistance immediately.

When treating your dog, remember he may be in considerable pain and could bite, so take precautions to protect yourself.

Prevention is always better than cure, so keep hot liquids out of reach and ensure that if you have to use dangerous chemicals you do so in an area that your dog cannot access. Keep electrical equipment well maintained.

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