Electrical Injuries in Small Mammals

Electrocution can result in serious injures due primarily to injury to nerve cells and the intense heat generated as the electricity passes through the body tissues. The most common source of electrical injury to pets is when they chew through electrical cords carrying low voltage household currents. Exposure to high voltage electrical current is uncommon and is usually fatal due to massive internal damage.

When a pet bites through a live electric cord, burns can occur within the mouth, lips or tongue. A veterinarian should be consulted for prompt treatment of most electrical injuries.

What to Watch For

  • Seizures
  • Mouth burns
  • Breathing difficulty or cessation of breathing
  • Sudden death from cardiac arrest

Diagnosis

Electrical injuries are diagnosed based on a history of possible exposure to electric cords, burns in the mouth and possible breathing problems. Expect your veterinarian to take x-rays of the chest to look for signs of fluid accumulation in the lungs. This is a possible result of electrical injury.

Treatment

If burns are present in the mouth, the affected area will be cleaned and medications such as antibiotics may be prescribed. If there is fluid accumulation within the lungs, treatment with diuretics such as furosemide may be indicated, although this is not always necessary. Depending on the severity of the injuries, hospitalization with possible oxygen support may be needed. If the patient is in shock, intravenous fluid support may be indicated.

Home Care and Prevention

There is no recommended home care for electrical injury. Unfortunately, due to their small size, most small mammals do not survive electrocution.

Keep all electric cords in a safe area and away from your curious pets. Periodic checks of electric cords for teeth marks can alert you to a potential problem. If you find teeth marks on electric cords, unplug the cord and have it replaced. Don’t allow your small mammal free unsupervised access to your house.

 

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