Electric shocks often affect the mouth as they are frequently due to puppies chewing electrical cables. The animal may have burns on the lips, tongue and across the roof of the mouth, so don’t forget to open the mouth and have a look inside if you find a damaged electrical cable within your dog’s reach. It is not unusual to find a burn line along the tongue of puppies prone to chewing cables.
If a high voltage supply is involved (non domestic, for example, power lines), do not approach. Call the police.
In the home, turn the power off first, at the mains. If breathing and the heart has stopped, you may wish to give resuscitation. Call the vet immediately.
How will I know if my dog has received an electric shock?
Dogs may be found chewing something electrical or may jump as if they have just received a static shock. It is not uncommon to find pets unconscious close to a source of electricity, often still in contact with the source of electricity. Animals who have received a lightning strike are usually found dead, often with charring or other burn marks present.
However mild cases may not be discovered until a day or two later when your dog starts showing signs of pain or secondary infection of burns.
Electricity can cause muscular spasms which means jaws can end up clamping shut around electricity cables. In these cases the animal is often unable to let go. The live current may still be present and will shock you too if you touch your dog, so the first step is to turn the power off at its source if possible.
A dog showing any of the following signs needs urgent veterinary attention:
- Evidence of burns
- Signs of pain or distress
- Increased drooling
- Irritation at the site of contact (e.g. pawing the mouth)
- Breathing difficulties
Dogs may show a delayed onset of signs. Dogs that have experienced a mild to moderate electric shock may show any or all of the following:
- pain at the site of shock (mouth pain, lameness etc.)
- Difficulty eating
- Increased drooling
- A foul odour to the breath
Pets showing these symptoms should be checked by a veterinary surgeon at the first possible opportunity.
Dogs with breathing difficulties or heart rhythm abnormalities may deteriorate suddenly during the first few days. They require a high level of care in a veterinary hospital if they are to make a full recovery.
Prevention is key. Most electric shock injuries in the home are preventable. Dogs should always be discouraged from chewing cables. Bitter tasting sprays from the pet shop can be used to discourage chewing.
Always ensure that the area is safe if your pet has been electrocuted. Do not touch them until you have turned the electricity off at the mains. Electrical burns have an entry and exit and burn all the way through the inside. Therefore the electrical burn is unlikely to be the most important injury and should not be a distraction when they may be losing consciousness and could stop breathing as a result of the shock affecting their heart.
First Aid for Pets provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for veterinary advice. The author does not accept any liability or responsibility for any inaccuracies or for any mistreatment or misdiagnosis of any person or animal, however caused. It is strongly advised that you attend a practical First Aid for Pets course or take our online course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.