Burns and Scalds in Dogs Leave a comment

Burns can be caused by a variety of household items, including electrical equipment and chemicals. Very light burns can be treated at home and only cause superficial damage, while more severe burns need medical attention from a vet. They can cause deep damage and shock, sometimes days after the accident.

What To Watch For

Dogs with first-degree burns will show the usual signs of pain, but the skin will still be intact. Second-degree and third-degree burns, on the other hand, are far more serious, as the skin is either partly or completely burned through. In these cases, check for signs of shock as well as for burn damage.

Primary Cause

Burns are primarily caused by one of three things: chemicals, electricity, or heat from liquids or hot objects. It is essential to quickly ascertain the cause of the burn so that it can be appropriately treated.

Immediate Care

The primary rule with burns of any kind is never put ointment, creams, butter, or margarine on them — it does not help.

For first-degree burns, where the skin is burned but still intact, treatment takes the following forms:

1. Burns from liquids or hot objects

Restrain the dog and cool the burned area as quickly as possible. You can do this with a gentle stream of cold water in the bath or from a shower attachment. The quicker you cool the area, the less damage will be done.

Once the area has been flushed with water, apply a cold compress for twenty minutes — using something like a bag of frozen vegetables — then cover the area with a non-stick bandage. Contact your vet for advice on further treatment.

2. Chemical burns

Wearing rubber gloves to avoid being burned, remove any contaminated collars, clothing, or harness. Flush the affected area with cold water for 20 minutes, making sure you don’t spread the chemicals and burn other areas. You can use a mild shampoo or detergent or, in the case of a known acid burn, baking soda (a teaspoon per pint of water).

If the burn is in the mouth, lie the dog on his side and pour cool water through the mouth a cupful at a time or use a garden hose for a constant, cool flow. Once flushed with water, cover superficial burns with a non-stick bandage and contact your vet for advice on further treatment.

3. Electrical burns

Burns from electrical equipment or power cords can be treated in the same way as liquids or hot objects (see No. 1, above). However, before touching the dog or surrounding cables, make sure the electricity is turned off and unplug the equipment.

For second-degree and third-degree burns of any kind, where the skin is either partially or fully burned through, follow these guidelines:

  • Check for signs of shock and treat them as a priority. 
  • Apply a clean, dry dressing to the burned area. Be careful to avoid using loose-fibered textiles such as cotton — the threads will stick to the wound and cause more problems. 
  • Wrap the dressed area with clean, torn sheets and take the dog to the vet immediately.

Veterinary Care

In the case of lesser degree burns, your vet will probably be able to instruct you over the phone. However, it is always worth consulting the vet afterward, as the dog’s condition may worsen. For more severe burns, do not hesitate to bring the dog to a veterinarian or emergency hospital. In addition to treating the burns, the doctors must prevent the dog from going into shock.

Living and Management

A vet will be able to suggest ways to keep the dog comfortable during recovery. He or she will also set up a schedule for the change of dressings and follow-up care — some of which can be done in your home.


The best way to prevent burns is to be aware of the ever-present danger. Keep your dog out of the kitchen when you are cooking and away from the barbeque if you’re outside. Avoid passing hot liquids, chemicals, and other dangerous substances over your pet’s head, in case of splashing. If you’re using chemicals like drain, toilet, and oven cleaners or bleach, make sure your pet is at a safe distance.

Young dogs (between two and eight months old) should be treated like inquisitive children: never leave them alone in a room where there are dangerous substances or electrical equipment.


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