For most of us, our dogs are usually involved in every aspect of our lives. This can cause injuries. Burns are not common in dogs, but they do occur. It is important to know how to manage them if they occur.
What you should do
If your dog has been burned, take these three steps immediately:
- First, soak the area in lukewarm or cold water for five to ten minutes.
- Then cover the area with a clean, dry bandage.
- Finally, seek veterinary care.
The extent of burns is not always immediately apparent, especially in dogs, as they are covered in fur. In dogs with moderate to severe burns, shock can develop rapidly and must be treated aggressively.
What will your vet do?
Your vet will follow some basic steps in assessing and treating a burn. First, they trim the hair away from the area to better visualize the skin. In this way the seriousness of the damage can be estimated. Burns, just like in humans, are classified into degrees:
First degree burns: Affect only the superficial epidermis (outer layer).
Second degree burns: Involve the layer below the epidermis (dermis).
Third degree burns: Called full thickness burns and penetrate the skin completely. These are the most serious.
To ease the pain
The management of burns depends on the severity. In the case of first-degree burns, keeping the area clean, dry and covered with an ointment such as silver sulfadiazine, which has antibacterial properties, may be sufficient. Pain medication is also a critical part of care. Your vet may prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, gabapentin, and/or other medications to manage discomfort. If the burn is in an area that your dog can lick, he will need an e-collar.
Second-degree burns are treated in the same way, but antibiotics may also be needed to prevent skin infections. Hospitalization may also be required.
Intensive treatment is required for third-degree burns. This may include surgery to remove dead and dying tissue, hospitalization for IV fluids and antibiotics, as well as pain medications. Third-degree burns can be life-threatening injuries. Due to the complete loss of the skin barrier, infection is a common phenomenon.
The good news is that burns are largely preventable. There are several common ways that dogs are injured, and they can be minimized.
- Heating pads are generally not safe for dogs, especially young puppies or geriatric dogs who have difficulty moving around. Instead of heating pads, look for dog-specific, safe products that can apply heat directly to uncomfortable areas.
- Electrical cords are a source of oral burns so make sure they are tucked away from prying mouths especially if there are puppies around.
- Keep dogs out of the kitchen while cooking, as boiling water is occasionally a cause of burns.
- Avoid open flames such as candles and potpourri in areas where dogs can access them.
- An often overlooked source of burns is using a hot hose on a dog in the summer. If a snake has been in the sun, the water can reach within 150+ degrees Fahrenheit. So if you are going to play with your dog in the water, make sure to run the hose for a few minutes and test the water beforehand.
With a little foresight and planning, your dog can be protected from burns. But if it happens, seek veterinary help immediately. Do not take a wait and see approach, as burns are difficult to assess in the beginning and can quickly worsen.
3 types of burns
Caused by direct application of heat, such as boiling water or a heating pad
Caused by corrosive substances such as bleaches, acids and combustible substances
Caused by friction, such as rope burns and “road rash” when a dog has been dragged by a vehicle.