Electrocution in Dogs

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial
Published: January 26, 2009
Updated: December 7, 2022
Vet Reviewed by Jennifer Coates, DVM
Electrocution in Dogs

What Is Electrocution in Dogs?

While we typically never give our appliances and lights a second thought, they can be very dangerous for playful and inquisitive puppies. Electrocution from chewing on an electrical cord is the single most common type of electrical injury for household pets. These types of injuries can result in burns to the surrounding areas (typically the mouth), damage to the heart, lungs, and other tissues, and death.

Possible complications of electric cord bite injuries are fluid buildup in the lungs (pulmonary edema) and abnormal heart rhythms. Additionally, there have been reports of animals developing cataracts (an eye abnormality) after such injuries.

Symptoms of Dog Electrocution

The most obvious sign of an electrical injury is burns in or around your dog’s mouth. If either the whiskers or the hair surrounding the mouth are singed, this can also be an indication that your dog has been burned at some point.

Other serious symptoms are related to your dog’s breathing and heart rhythm. Muscle tremors, seizures, and collapse are also possible. Some signs of a serious electrical injury are:

  • Burns

  • Coughing

  • Abnormally fast breathing

  • Needing to be upright to breathe properly

  • Crackling sounds in the lungs

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Bluish-tinged skin and mucous membranes

  • Weakness

  • Collapse

  • Seizures

  • Sudden death

Any dog who may have been electrocuted needs to be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Causes of Dog Electrocution

The most common cause of electrocution in dogs is because a young puppy chewed on a household electrical cord—commonly from Christmas lights, fans, TVs, or other appliances.

Most electrical injuries are seen in animals younger than 2 years old. Whether it’s because of teething, because your puppy has a natural tendency to chew on things, or if your dog is just curious about cords, it’s during these younger years that injury is most likely to happen.

How Vets Diagnose Dog Electrocution

Dogs who arrive at the veterinary hospital in critical condition will immediately be taken to a treatment area. For example, if your dog is having severe trouble breathing, she could be placed in an oxygen cage and monitored closely.

Once the pet’s condition is stable, your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam and ask you some questions about what you witnessed at home. While the above symptoms can indicate an electrical cord injury, there are other possibilities as well.

The veterinarian will check your dog’s mouth for burns and listen to their heart and lungs. They might also take x-rays of the chest and an electrocardiogram to further assess heart and lung function. They may also run some bloodwork to check for damage elsewhere in the body, such as the kidneys and liver.

Pulmonary edema may develop in the hours after a pet has been electrocuted, so the veterinarian may recommend hospitalizing your dog for monitoring and any additional diagnostic tests and treatments that may be needed.

Treating and Managing Electrocution in Dogs

If you witness the electrocution, turn off the electricity before moving your dog. If your dog is not breathing and does not have a heartbeat, clear their airway as best as you can and provide assistance through CPR. All dogs who may have been electrocuted should be taken to a vet as soon as possible.

Depending on a dog’s condition, treatment for electrocution may include:

  • Pain relief for burns

  • Antibiotics to prevent infection

  • Oxygen therapy

  • Fluid therapy

  • Nutritional support

  • Medications to normalize heart rhythms, eliminate fluid from the lungs, and manage seizures

Your dog will need to be closely monitored until their condition stabilizes. They may not feel comfortable eating their regular food because of the pain associated with wounds in the mouth, so you might need to switch to soft foods or liquefy their dry food until their wounds have healed. Your veterinarian can help you make a diet plan until your dog can comfortably eat regular food again.

At home, monitor the burn wounds for infection and proper healing. Surgery is sometimes necessary if burned tissues cannot repair themselves on their own.

Preventing Electrocution in Dogs

The most important step in preventing electrical injury is to keep your dog away from electrical cords and outlets. Additionally, inspect all cords in your home and throw out any that are damaged, since even minimal contact with a bare wire can cause serious harm to your dog.

Many pet parents find that using baby-proofing measures work for protecting their pets against injury. Most hardware and full-service department stores carry household child-protection tools.

Featured Image: iStock/freemixer


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