By Dr. Suranjan Sarkar
Burn injuries in dogs are more common than we think. When we say “burn” we think of fire, but that’s not all. Burns in pets can occur by many other agents as well. You may not be aware that walking your dog on hot streets during the summer months can burn your dog’s paws. This is a very common condition in hot, tropical countries like India.
Another common cause of burns in pets is hot water. Suppose you have kept a bucketful of hot water for bath and your pet laid its paws on it! This causes immediate blisters on your pet’s body.
Caustic chemicals and grease are other causes of burns in pets.
HOW TO KNOW YOUR PET IS BURNED
Except in severe cases, you have to notice the symptoms to tell that your dog is burned. Your dog or cat may be limping and/or constantly licking the area. Watch out for blisters, redness, and swelling.
FIRST AID TO HELP YOUR PET IN CASE OF BURNS
In case of a recent fire, even though you may notice that there is no fire on the pet’s body but the area beneath the skin continues to burn or scald for hours. Therefore, it becomes necessary to cool down the affected area of your pet’s body.
If you notice burns on your pet, there is a certain step-by-step procedure to contain infection and thereby prevent death. The process is as follows:
• If your pet is outside take it indoors to a cooler, cleaner place. In case of fire, there might be harmful smoke around. Make sure you take your pet away from the site of the blaze.
• Muzzle the animal immediately and try to keep it calm. Remove the collar or harness as it becomes tighter in case of burns due to fire.
• Skin is the slowest to cool down. For this reason, place the affected area under running water for 10 minutes or immerse in water (Except in burns caused by caustic chemicals).
• Apply a moist towel or bandage to the affected area.
• Don’t pour cold water or apply an ice pack as it cools the affected area too quickly causing vasoconstriction, and thereby making the wounds deeper. Sometimes applying ice pack brings down the body temperature below normal, which could be fatal.
• Don’t apply ointment at this stage. This may hinder the assessment process by the vet.
• Transport the pet to the veterinarian’s clinic. If the place is too far away, make sure to cover your pet’s body with several blankets to prevent hypothermia. This also helps in preventing secondary infection and sepsis.
• If veterinary help is far or not available, clip and wash the area and apply Silver Sulphadiazine ointment (commonly known as Burnol in India).
• Some pets might experience bronchospasm due to smoke. I have come across such cases in my career. In such circumstances, oxygen therapy becomes inevitable to save life.
• In case of burns caused by a caustic chemical, it is necessary to remove the source first. Don’t apply water as the chemical may spread to other areas. Prevent the pet from licking the area, because the caustic chemical may cause damage to internal organs if ingested.
* Author is a practising veterinarian at Pluto Pet Clinic, Ranchi. He has done his PGDECM from Madras Veterinary College, Chennai. He has also served as a government veterinarian for the last 21 years.