Electric Shock and Dogs

Electric shock (electrocution) can occur when dogs bite electric cords or come into contact with downed wires. A lightning strike is a rare cause of electrocution, but a dog does not have to be struck to be seriously injured or killed. A tall tree with deep roots and spreading branches can act as a conduit for a bolt of lightning, conducting electricity through the ground to any animal in the immediate vicinity. Most lightning strikes are fatal. The singed hair and skin give evidence of the cause of death. A dog who gets an electric shock may be burned. The electric shock may cause an irregular heartbeat with circulatory collapse, followed by cardiac arrest. Electric current also damages the capillaries of the lungs and leads to the accumulation of fluid in the air sacs, a condition called pulmonary edema. A characteristic sign of electric shock injury is finding the unconscious dog on the floor near an electrical outlet. Electric shocks cause involuntary muscle contractions of the dog’s jaw that may prevent him from releasing his hold on a live wire. Dogs who survive electric shock may cough, have difficulty breathing, drool, have an offensive mouth odor, and have burns in the mouth.

Treatment: If your dog is found in contact with an electric cord or appliance, do not touch the dog. First shut off the main power and pull the plug. If that’s not possible, use a piece of wood to move the source of the electricity off the dog, or to move the dog away from the electricity. If the dog is unconscious and is not breathing, administer artificial respiration or CPR, if needed. Dogs who revive from electric shock should be seen by a veterinarian at once.

Prevention: Electric cord shocks can be prevented by placing cords in inac- cessible locations, covering cords with plastic sleeves, unplugging cords when not in use, and providing appropriate chewing toys for puppies and dogs.