It is very difficult to imagine many more injuries in pets that are as traumatic, painful and disfiguring as a burn or scold.

Burns and scolds cause damage to skin tissue. Often very horrific and it takes quite a while for the full extent of the damage to be fully realised.

Most burns that dogs, cats and other pets suffer from are due to  hot surfaces, appliances and scolds from hot drinks, cooking and substance in and around the home and garden.

Minimise these by pet-proofing!

We have all heard of 1st degree burns, second degree burns etc,

1st degree: Generally superficial partial thickness wounds – Affecting only the top layer of skin. Symptoms are usually limited to minor pain and redness. A good example of a superficial partial thickness burn is mild sunburn. They heal quickly and generally don’t additional veterinary care unless there is infection.

2nd degree: Deep partial thickness wounds – The burns affects deeper layers of skin, producing blisters.
These are painful, have a risk of infection and take longer to heal.
2nd degree burns require veterinary attention.

3rd degree: Full thickness wounds – Horrific burns that involve total destruction of all skin layers. Charring is visible and usually no sensation is left in the burn area. This loss of the skin’s protective layer places the animal highly susceptible to bacterial infection. Because the burned area is compromised, there will be little or no circulation, immunity is depleted and electrolyte balance is affected. These burns are life-threatening. They require immediate veterinary care.

Treatment of burns to pets

Sunburn may not seem serious but still painful to an animal, any pet that has suffered a burn should be checked over by your vet.
Just because the skin may seem pinkish and superficial, the pet may develop an electrolyte imbalance, (Water balance • Next to oxygen, water is most important for life.) kidney failure, anemia and a systemic infection.
Not forgetting smoke inhalation.
The extent of the burn, its and percentage of the animal’s body that is involved all play a crucial role in assessing and evaluating the unjury


Always consult your vet. Do not apply ice, butter or any other ointment unless directed by the vet.

Sunscreen? why not! Prevention is better than treatment. Apply sunscreen to vulnerable areas such as shaved areas and non-pigmented (white) areas.
IMPORTANT. Use sunscreens that contain PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) and avoid those that contain zinc. Keep an eye on them and stop the pet from licking off the sunscreen.

Thermal burns
Thermal burns may be 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree burns.

  • Turn off mains power in thecase of electric shock.
  • Extinguish anyflames.
  • Don’t get bitten. Muzzle your pet.
  • Apply cool water ideally running from tap, shower or hose for ten minutes then compresses with a clean (sterile) cloth. This may prevent the burn from penetrating deeper into the tissues.Go to your vet.
  • Do not break any blisters
  • Do not apply any ointments, creams, lotions and potions ….even or butter.
  • Do not apply ice to the burn.

Chemical burns

  • Don’t get bitten. Muzzle your pet.
  • Open windows and doors to ensure the area is well ventilated.
  • If the burn is from a dry chemical, brush away as much of the substance as possible. A pillowcase over the head would be useful to protect the mouth, nose and eyes from further contamination whilst brushing off.
  • Rinse the contaminated area with large amounts of warm (not Hot!) flowing water, a shower is good for this.Wear gloves, safety glasses and mask to protect yourself
  • If the chemical is in the pet’s eyes, flush with clean water or sterile saline for 15-20 minutes.
  • Do not apply any ointments, creams, lotions and potions ….even or butter.
  • Do not apply ice to the burn.
  • Carefully transport to your vet and take the chemical’s container with you id possible.

Smoke inhalation
If the pet is exposed to fire they should be examined for smoke inhalation.

  • Smoke and heat can damage the lining of the respiratory tract as can noxious fumes.
  • Carbon monoxide is toxic and competes with oxygen in the blood producing hypoxia (low blood oxygen levels). This can be fatal.

Carefully transport the animal to your veterinarian for evaluation and treatment.