Burns and Scalds in Cats
When you think of burns, you usually think of touching something very hot or on fire. Scalding is being burned by hot liquids. Burns, meanwhile, can also be from chemical or electrical causes.
Burn victims often have other problems like shock or smoke inhalation. Cats can be treated, but the more extensive the burns are, the more complicated the treatment. In fact, some burns are severe enough that euthanasia is the only humane choice.
What to Watch For
Cats are most likely to get burns on their feet from walking on hot surfaces, like cook tops or freshly tarred roads, or on surfaces treated with chemicals, such as bleach. They can also get burns on their back from hot things falling on them, like grease spatter. The ears and nose can get sunburn, especially if these areas are white.
Burns are classified on the depth of skin damage:
Cats with second and third degree burns are at risk of shock, infection and dehydration. If the burns are from chemicals and the cat licks the chemical, the cat may show signs related to ingesting the chemical. If the burns are from fire, there may be respiratory problems from smoke inhalation.
Most burns are thermal (hot objects) or chemical in origin.
If you can do so safely, it is best to begin treatment for burns at home. Wrapping the cat in a towel may help restrain your cat while you are treating him.
For thermal burns:
For chemical burns:
The diagnosis is based on the information you provide and examination of the cat. Additional tests may be needed if there is suspicion of smoke inhalation or chemical ingestion.
The burned area will be shaved and cleaned as needed. If there is smoke inhalation, chemical ingestion, shock, or other problems, your veterinarian will start treatment for those as well. The veterinarian will prioritize the problems your cat has and deal with the most serious first. Specific treatment for burns will involve the following:
Cats may also suffer from electrical burns and sunburn (a type of actinic or radiation burn). These are treated similar to thermal burns.
Living and Management
Some of the damage caused by the burns may take a day or two to become evident. If your cat is not hospitalized, you need to monitor him carefully for signs of the burned area getting worse, or other health problems developing.
The most difficult part of at home care will be the bandages. It is very important that they stay clean and dry at all times. Do not let your cat chew, lick or scratch the bandages or the burned area. An Elizabethan collar may help accomplish this. Bandage changes should be done as scheduled. If you notice any chafing, odor, or discharge, or the wound looks worse at any bandage change, your cat needs to be seen by your veterinarian. Some of the initial bandage changes may need to be done at the vet’s office under sedation.
Third degree burns may take a month or more to heal; it is important to stick with the treatment schedule your veterinarian prescribes for the entire healing time. Some burns are extensive enough to require skin grafts, but these are not done until all the underlying tissue is healed.
There are many things around the house and outside that could accidentally burn your cat. Take as many precautions as possible to prevent your cat from coming in contact with these dangers.
Denotes an animal that is still able to reproduce or is free of cuts and scrapes
Fat or lanolin
A medical condition in which the body has lost fluid or water in excessive amounts
Removing foreign tissue or matter; taking out damaged or contaminated tissue.
Inducing death on an animal or putting them to sleep
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