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ELECTRICAL CORD BITE INJURIES: How To Recognize It and What to Do

Several years ago, Onyx, one of our Chihuahuas who is always a mischief maker, bit the cord of an electric fan. Before we could get there to unplug it, Teddy, a mid-size mix, urinated on the cord. Two things happened. Onyx began having painful muscle spasms and Teddy's penis was burnt. True story.

Teddy ran out the dog door in pain. Onyx on the other hand, continued to have powerful muscle spasms. I called the vet as I massaged her muscles and checked on Teddy to see if he needed medical aid.

They both recovered, but Onyx continued to have intermittent muscle spasms for several weeks after. We were lucky that it wasn't worse.

These type of bite injuries are most often seen in dogs under two years old. The most likely reason is that puppies and young adult dogs are still at that curious and teething age.

This also applies to cats.

Electrocution can be much worse than Onyx and Teddy experienced.

Symptoms of electrocution are:

  • Burns in the mouth and surrounding tissue

  • Muscle spasms

  • Twitching and seizures

  • Collapse

  • Rapid heart rate (large dogs 60-100 lbs, small dogs 100-140 lbs normal heart rate)

  • An electrical burn smell

  • cardiac arrest (heart stops beating)

If the cord is still in the dog's mouth, the power needs to be shut off immediately. Get a non-metal object such as a wooden spoon to pry the cord from the dog's mouth. Do not use your fingers.

Depending on the dog's symptoms, you may need to do the one or all of the following:

  • Call the vet and get some one to drive you there. You may need to do lifesaving procedures along the way.

  • If the dog is seizing, prevent the dog from hurting himself by pushing away objects she may crash in to. Also, stay away from her mouth as the spasm may cause her to bite down. Keep the dog (and yourself) as calm as possible.

  • If the dog collapses, check for a pulse by placing your hand over the left side of the chest wall, or at the femoral artery

  • If the dog has no pulse, she is in cardiac arrest and you need to begin CPR. (See CPR instructions below)

The current alters the function of the heart, brain, and muscles. However, it can also cause further complications such as fluid accumulation in the lungs and high blood pressure in the arteries near the lungs. Once this occurs, the added symptoms are very life threatening.

Serious symptoms indicating that the lungs have been affected:

  • Coughing

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Difficulty breathing unless sitting upright

  • Panting

  • Crackling sounds in the lungs

  • Bluish mucus membranes

If you witness the electrocution or find that the dog by the bitten cord, convey that to the vet, because these same symptoms can be indicative of other medical conditions including heart disease and poisoning.

When you get home take measures to prevent this from ever happening again. Hide the cords with cord protectors available online or at any home improvement store. You can also prevent the dog's access to the area, and if necessary, use taste deterrents on the cord. What ever you choose to do, do something. Your dog's life may depend on it.

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