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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Burns From Friction View In Dogs

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Bicyclists refer to friction burns as road rash, and they a very painful injury. Pets usually get friction burns when they have fallen out of cars or trucks or when they have been hit or dragged by cars. The friction of a pet against pavement scrapes away fur and skin.


Symptoms will be evident on the dogs skin. Look for areas of missing skin and fur around common ground contact points such as the paws, hips, elbows, and head.


Accidents cause friction burns.


Diagnosis is made by examining the injury.


  1. Rinse the burn - The best treatment for friction burns is water, and lots of it. Place your pet in a tub and flood the affected area with gently running cool to luke warm water for 5 - 10 minutes. This flushes away grit and helps reduce pain and swelling.

  2. Remove the debris - Pets who have been dragged on dirt, grass, or pavement invariably have a lot of debris packed into the wound. Water will remove some of it, but not all. You may need to use blunt tipped tweezers to remove larger particles. Try not to touch wounds with your bare hands - use disposable medical gloves to be sure you do not contaminate the wound further. Having wounds cleaned is painful, and some pets will not allow this. Don't struggle too much. If you are not able to completely clean the wound at home so that no debris is visible, you should call the vet. He may recommend bringing your pet in so that the wound can be professionally treated, probably under sedation.

  3. Take off your pets collar - Since friction burns can swell very quickly, be sure to remove you pet's collar if the burn is on her head or neck.

  4. Look for signs of shock - Friction burns involving more than 5 - 10% of the body must be treated by a veterinarian. In the meantime, watch out for shock. A pet going into shock often has trouble breathing because her circulatory system isn't distributing blood and oxygen efficiently. A pet in shock acts weak or woozy. her eyelids droop, and she may have a pale tongue or gums. She may also lose consciousness.

    Don't bother cleaning the wound if you suspect that your pet is going into shock. That will waste valuable time, and cool water can make the shock progress more rapidly. Wrap her in a blanket and get her to an emergency clinic as fast as you can. You can also put a drop or two of Karo syrup or honey on her gums to help keep her conscious.

    If you are alone, try to put a small pet in a carrier. Put the carrier on the seat beside you. A large pet should go on the backseat or in the cargo area of the vehicle. If your pet is unconscious or barely conscious, gently stretch her head and neck out a little to help breathing. If she is conscious, she won't hold her head and neck in place, so don't worry about this. If someone can go with you to the vet, have him hold your pet's head and neck out straight on the ride.


There is no prevention for this condition.


Because friction burns remove large amounts of skin, the wounds will weep a lot. Dry the area several times a day with a clean, soft cloth. Don't use cotton balls, because they will stick to the wound.

Apply aloe vera ointment, available in drug stores and pet supply stores, 3 times a day. Aloe vera reduces pain and has been found to speed healing.

Friction burns heal more quickly when they are kept dry, which means you will want to apply a bandage to keep your pet from licking the area. For a burn on a lower leg, slip a cotton sock onto the leg, then wrap gauze and tape around the top to hold it in place. It is harder to bandage wounds elsewhere on the body because tape won't stick to fur. After you've covered the wound with a non-stick dressing like a Telfa pad, grab a t-shirt and slip your pet's head through the neck, and front feet through the arms. Then wrap a little roll gauze around her body to hold the shirt in place - be careful not to wrap too tightly.

Veterinarians usually don't recommend topical anesthetics, but friction burns are unusually painful. If your pet appears to be in a great deal of pain, consult your veterinarian about topical anesthetics.

Unwrap the bandage and check the burn at least 3 - 4 times the first day, applying aloe vera ointment each time. If the wound seems clean and dry, you'll need to change the bandage only once a day. But if the wound is weeping so much that the bandage is sticking, you will need to change it more often.

If you don't have aloe vera ointment, you can apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment like Neosporin to the bandage when you change it. Another choice is silver sulfadiazine (Silvadene). Veterinarians often prescribe it because it keeps burns and other wounds healthy. Apply the cream once or twice a day.

You can keep bandages clean and dry when your pet goes outside by wrapping the area with a plastic wrap (Saran wrap). For a leg burn, slip a plastic bread bag over the foot and tape it in place. Don't keep a burn wrapped for a long time, since plastic will prevent air from getting to the burn and slow healing. Wrap the bandages only when your pet is going outside, then take the wrapping off when she comes back in.

Show Sources & Contributors +


The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

2 Comments For "Burns From Friction"



This article was immensely useful! Thx!!

July 3, 2012 at 4:08PM  Sign In or Join to Comment



Very helpful information! Thank you. :)

July 7, 2013 at 6:08PM  Sign In or Join to Comment