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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Electrical Shock View In Cats

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Electrical shock (electrocution) can occur when dogs bit electrical cords or come into contact with downed wires. Electrical shock is common in puppies, since they have a tendency to chew just about anything, including electrical and telephone cords.


A dog who gets an electric shock may be burned. At their most severe, electrical shocks can trigger seizures or stop the heart. The damage can be insidious because it comes on slowly, sometimes causing an irregular heartbeat with circulatory collapse - followed by cardiac arrest - or difficulty in breathing several days after the accident. Electric current also damages the capillaries of the lungs and leads to the accumulation of fluid in the air sacs, a condition called pulmonary edema.

A characteristic sign of electrical shock injury is finding the unconscious dog on the floor near an electrical outlet. Electric shocks can cause involuntary muscle contractions of the dog's jaw that may prevent him from releasing his hold on a live wire. Dogs who survive electric shock may cough, have difficulty breathing, drool, have an offensive mouth odor, and have burns on the mouth.


A lightning strike is a rare cause of electrocution, but a dog does not have to be struck to be seriously injured or killed. A tall tree with deep roots and spreading branches can act as a conduit for a bolt of lightning, conducting electricity through the ground to any animal in the immediate vicinity. Most lightning strikes are fatal.


Observing symptoms are a tell-tale way to diagnose electrical shock. If the shock was due to lightning strike, singed hair and skin give evidence of the cause of death (if deceased).


  1. Shut off the power - If your dog is found in contact with an electric cord or appliance, DO NOT touch the dog. Electrical current often causes muscles to go into spasm, making it impossible for dogs or cats to let go once they have bitten the cord. You MUST shut off the main power before touching your pet. If this is not possible, or you cannot get to the power box quickly enough, use a piece of wood to move the source of electricity off the pet, or to move the pet away from the electricity.
  2. Perform CPR if needed - If the pet is unconscious and is not breathing, administer CPR. Electricity can damage blood vessels in the body, causing a leakage of fluid that fills the lungs. This will cause coughing, difficulty breathing, and extreme anxiety. Electricity can also cause an abnormal heartbeat when it disrupts the heart's normal electrical impulses. You will need to perform CPR if your pet collapses and stops breathing.

    Wrap your hand around your pet's muzzle to close his mouth, then blow into his mouth with 2 quick breaths. Watch to see if his chest rises, then give 15 - 20 breaths per minute. Until your pet begins breathing again on his own or until you reach medical help. After each breath, watch for his chest to rise, then remove your lips and let the air escape.

    After giving the first couple of breaths, place your palm or your ear against his chest just behind the left elbow and check for a heartbeat. you can also check for a pulse near the groin on the inside of the leg - on the femoral artery, If you can't detect a heartbeat, you will need to do chest compressions to help start the heart.

    For a cat or small dog, cup a hand over the point of the chest below the elbows. Squeeze firmly in a "cough-like"manner, pressing in about 1/2 inch, with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other, about 80 - 100 times a minute. Give one breath per 5 compressions, or about 15 - 20 breaths per minute.

    Put a medium or large pet on his side on a firm, flat surface. With one hand on top of the other on his chest behind the elbow, push down, compressing the chest 25 - 50%. Give compressions and breaths as described for small pets.
  3. Treat seizures with dark and quiet - Seizures aren't as serious as they appear, and they will usually stop in 2 - 3 minutes. In the meantime, cover your pet's face with a dark towel to shut out light and noise. This can help end the seizures more quickly. Try not to touch or even talk to pets who are having seizures. Even though they are unconscious, the sound of your voice and physical contact will stimulate the brain, possibly causing the seizures to last longer.
  4. Keep your pet quiet - Stress increases oxygen needs. pets who have been shocked often suffer lungs damage, which will make it even harder for them to get enough oxygen. Moving them around or even holding them will increase stress. If you can, put your pet in a dark pet carrier, or a box, put it in the car, and run the air conditioning on high until you get to the vet (if it is hot outside).
  5. Give him ice - You can ease the pain of mouth burns by putting ice in his drinking water - the cold will act as a temporary anesthetic. Or you can put ice directly on the burns.


Electric cord shocks can be prevented by placing cords in inaccessible locations, covering cords with plastic sleeves, unplugging cords when not in use, and providing appropriate chewing toys for your pet.


Mouth burns take a long time to heal because they are always wet and tend to get infected. This can make it hard for your pets to eat. Plan to run your pet's food through a blender, adding water or low-fat, no-salt chicken broth to make it soupy until the burns heal.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

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

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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