Pet First Aid: Electrical Burns In The Mouth

I once caught my dog Lally chewing happily on the vacuum cleaner cord. Thank goodness she didn’t get a nasty shock — the vacuum wasn’t plugged in at the time. But pets who like to chew (especially puppies and kittens) may be tempted to gnaw on an electrical cord. That puts them at risk for a mouth burn and/or electrical shock.

Signs that your pet has gotten an electrical burn in his or her mouth:

  • Blisters, especially on the gums, lips, and tongue
  • Erratic heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Refusal to eat or drink
  • Lethargy
  • Bite marks on an electrical cord
  • A burning smell in the room or from the pet

Severe electrical shocks often have immediate responses; minor shocks may take hours to show symptoms. A minor electrical shock can damage blood vessels in the lungs, causing a slow leak of fluids that will make it difficult for your pet to breathe. And even a minor electrical shock can affect the heart.

If you believe your pet has had a shock from chewing on electrical cords, you should call your veterinarian immediately. Even if the burns seem to be minor, call your vet anyway. Remember that you won’t be able to see the most severe reactions — in the heart and in the lungs.

It can be hard to rinse your pet’s mouth with cool water, but that will be the best first aid you can give. Cool water will stop the burning process and help keep the wounds clean. Watch your pet for signs of shock — fast breathing, weakness, pale gums, and loss of consciousness. Take off your pet’s collar if he’s been burned in the mouth or on the head or neck. Burns can cause tissues to swell, leading his collar to be dangerously tight.