Canine Tip of the Day: Burns

Canine Tip of the Day: Burns

There are lots of places a dog could get a burn from, and several different types of burn too, from hot burns (caused by coming into contact with anything hot including flames, boiling water and even the sun), cold burns (usually ice or frozen metal), chemical burns (from anything that can get either onto the dogs skin or be licked off), friction burns (usually as a result of coming to an emergency stop on their paws for instance) and electric burns (caused by electric shocks).

Remember in hot weather, particularly if your dog has pale skin, light coloured fur or only thin hair coverage on the muzzle and on the ear tips, sunscreen should be applied to prevent sunburn.  A high factor, waterproof, child-friendly lotion is recommended and, if possible, one without fragrance so as not to encourage the dog to lick it off.  If your dog does manage to get himself sunburnt, use the tips below to cool the burn just as you would any other type of burn.

* CAUTION * If his burn is on the muzzle, be very careful not to drown or choke your dog by running cold water across his nose and muzzle.  Better to use a cold ice pack gently to help cool and soothe.

The golden rule is that if skin dries, it dies, and so if your dog gets a burn, you must:

  1.  run the affected area under cold water for a MINIMUM of 10 minutes, or until the skin is cold – therefore, if after having run the burn under cold water for 10 minutes there is still any heat left in the burn, you must continue until such time as all the redness and heat has left the wound.
  2. When you have finished cooling the burn, it is perfectly fine to keep it covered with a moist clean dressing to keep the skin cold and wet.
  3. You can use cling film which will do the same job PROVIDED YOU ARE 100% SURE THE WOUND IS COLD.  If you use cling film and there is any heat left in the wound, you will merely keep the heat in and cook the wound still further.
  4. If the dog will not allow you to do this and refuses to stand for 10 minutes with a running hose over it (no surprise there), you can try placing ice cubes or frozen peas in a clean, wet, tea towel and keeping it in contact with the affected area, again for a minimum of 10 minutes.
  5. Remember that the fur might well be masking the size and severity of the burn too and it is often necessary to cut away the fur to expose the area so you can see more clearly what you are dealing with.  Burns are very painful and it is often sensible to apply a makeshift muzzle to ensure your own safety.We can go through the S.C.A.L.D. check list to assess the severity of the burn as follows:-


S = Size – how big is the burn?  Any burn bigger than 1″ square on a large dog needs treatment from a vet so with a small breed, obviously this size guide will be considerably smaller.  Be on the safe side, always seek veterinary advice if your dog has been burned, however small.

C = Cause – what caused the burn?  Some burns are more serious than others for example if the burn was caused by a chemical, not only do you have the burnt skin to deal with but also the possibility of a poisoning if the chemical manages to make its way into the dog’s blood stream.  With chemical burns you MINIMUM time under the cold running water DOUBLES to at least 20 minutes to ensure you flush the chemical from the layers of the skin completely.

A = Age – how old is the dog?  Very young, elderly, frail or recently ill dogs need urgent attention

L = Location – some places on your dog are more dangerous than others.  If any of the following locations are damaged then I would always seek veterinary attention immediately:-


D = Depth – how deep is the burn?  A full thickness burn will be oozing, bleeding and very wet.  This is an emergency situation.  You should apply a cold wet dressing to the burn, ring your vet and tell him you are coming to the surgery immediately.

Remember, all the while you are treating your dog and his burns, please be on the look out for signs of shock which are much more dangerous than the burn itself.  Should your dog start displaying any of the shock signs, stabilise him with his rear end elevated, keep him warm, ring your vet and then continue to treat the burn once you have his shock under control.

If you are ever in doubt as to the severity of a burn, please phone your vet immediately for advice.