What to do in the vital first minutes after an accident
In our series on pet first aid, we will be detailing the various accidents that could happen to your pet in your home, or while out and about, and what you can do immediately to treat the wound and limit the damage before heading to the vet.
First up in our series: burns.
It’s a scene that can happen in any home. You’re cooking supper and take a pot of boiling water off the stove, Fido runs under your feet, and you accidentally drop the pot of water – all over poor Fido. What should you do?
First, you need to ascertain how severe the burn is; a first degree burn only affects the top layer of skin and while it will still present a certain level of pain, the skin remains intact and requires only minimal treatment; a second or third degree burn is when a few layers of skin are burned. These are far more serious and can often result in shock, and even death.
Never treat a burn by putting any type of ointment or butter on it. It will only make it worse and increase the risk of infection.
There are a number of different kinds of burns that can occur:
Type of burn: thermal (i.e. heat-related)
Caused by: boiling water, fire, sunburn etc.
First, remove the cause. If it’s fire related, extinguish the open flame; if it’s boiling water from a pot, remove the pot etc. Then examine the animal for the degree of burn. If it’s a first degree burn, flush the area immediately with cool water. You can do this by putting him in the bath or shower and running cool water over the affected area for at least ten minutes. Then apply a cool compress such as a cool, sterile cloth, keeping the area wet. Take your pet to the vet for further examination and treatment.
If it’s a third degree burn, where the skin is broken open, do not immerse in water. Rather cover the area with a clean, sterile cloth/torn sheet and wrap your dog in a warm blanket to treat for shock. The animal shouldn’t be moved in this situation, so rather call your vet and await his instruction.
Type of burn: electrical
Caused by: usually chewing wires
Before touching your pet, ensure the electricity is turned off. These types of burns are usually around the mouth (from chewing), but can affect the whole body so it’s imperative that you get your pet to the vet as soon as possible. If he’s not breathing, resuscitation might be necessary. Immediate treatment for the actual burn is the same as if treating a thermal burn (see above).
Type of burn: chemical
Caused by: Licking, drinking or walking on/rolling in chemicals
Before touching your pet, make sure you’re wearing gloves and remove all contaminated materials nearby. If you can, take note of what chemical it is and see if there is a recommended antidote – especially if it’s been ingested. Flush the area with cool water for as long as possible (approx. 20 minutes). If it’s the mouth that has been burned, run cool water through his mouth. Once flushed, cover with a clean cloth or bandage and contact your vet.
In all cases, try to remember as many details as possible (especially if the cause is chemical) so your vet can take the best course of action for treatment.