What are Thermal Burns?
A dog that has a body temperature of below 35 degrees Celsius and is warmed using any of these techniques could easily suffer thermal burns. Dogs that have short hair, hair loss or are very small are at a higher risk of suffering from thermal burns. If not careful, any dog can be susceptible to thermal burns when warming devices are placed against the skin. Thermal burns can range from first degree burns to fourth degree burns.
When dogs are anesthetized, body temperatures dip and hypothermia can be a concern. Supplemental heat is many times provided to keep a dog’s body temperature from dropping too low. Many veterinarians will use radiant heat lamps, circulating warm water blankets, electric heating pads or warm water containers or surgical gloves placed around the dog to induce heat and keep the body temperature stabilized.
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Symptoms of Thermal Burns in Dogs
If you notice any area on your dog’s body that could have been burned, no matter the cause, it is best to have your veterinarian examine the area and prescribe the appropriate treatment for the severity of the burn. Any burn is susceptible to infection, shock and/or dehydration.
- Missing hair or thinning hair
- Red skin or skin that is abnormally bright pink
- Blisters on the skin
- Singed hair
First degree burns involve the surface of the skin and are superficial. The burned skin is painful, red and moist. The area will also thicken, but healing will occur within three weeks when new cells form over the area.
Second degree burns have noticeable inflammation present and there is swelling of the tissue beneath the skin’s surface. The hairs on the skin do not easily pull out. Extensive scarring may occur and it will take several months for the area to heal. Second degree burns need to be protected while healing against infections or more traumas.
Third degree burns occur when all skin structures have been destroyed. The affected skin will look brown and leathery. The hairs on the skin can easily pull out. While third degree burns are less painful than first and secondary burns, healing is much more difficult. All the nerves within the skin have been destroyed. Healing many times requires surgical reconstruction or contraction and cell multiplication. Close monitoring of third degree burns is necessary to prevent infection and promote healing.
Fourth degree burns are considered to be the worst type of burns. The burn has extended past the skin layer and has the same characteristics of third degree burns. Fourth degree burns have more tissue damage and extend into the muscle and bone. Surgical reconstruction or formation of granulation tissues will promote healing as long as no infection occurs. Healing will can take several treatments as well as several months time for a full recovery.
Causes of Thermal Burns in Dogs
Many thermal burns are caused during post-surgery recovery when a dog’s body temperature has dipped dangerously low and heating devices have been used to elevate body temperature back to a normal range. Other instances of thermal burns include licking a hot grill or lying on electric blanket or heating pad in the home.
The following can cause thermal burns in dogs, use caution with any of these:
- Hot liquids
- Hot food
- Heating pads
- Fire or flame
- Heat lamps
- Hair dryers
- Scalding water
Diagnosis of Thermal Burns in Dogs
Your veterinarian will examine the affected area and will ask questions to determine how the burn occurred. If you or someone else witnessed the burn happening, relay this information to your veterinarian.
Questions that may be asked by your veterinarian will include:
- How long ago did the burn occur?
- If you do not know when it happened, when did you first notice the burn?
- What caused the burn?
- Have you done any treatments at home?
By finding the answers to these questions your veterinarian will be better equipped to determine the severity of the damage done and the best treatment plan for your dog.
Treatment of Thermal Burns in Dogs
The first thing necessary for any burn, no matter the degree of the burn, is to cool the affected area. Cooling the burned area must be done over a period of 30 to 40 minutes. Never rapidly cool a burned area and do not apply ice packs. Ice packs can cause over-cooling or lower body temperatures. In extreme cases, ice packs can cause frostbite.
Thermal burn treatments are based on the depth of the burn.
First Degree Burns
Topical treatments, usually creams, are prescribed. Oral or topical antibiotics will also be prescribed. Proper cleaning of the wound and keeping the area dry will also be necessary for healing.
Second Degree Burns
Many of the second degree burns will need more aggressive treatment plans. Your veterinarian may require your dog to be hospitalized and supportive care be given during the initial treatments. Daily wound cleaning and bandage changes will be required as well as topical and/or oral antibiotics.
Once the wound is beginning to heal, skin grafts may be necessary to increase healing. Scarring will most likely occur and hair loss may be permanent.
Third or Fourth Degree Burns
Extensive and aggressive treatment plans will be required for a full recovery. Long-term hospitalization may be required along with supportive care including IV fluids, blood transfusions, oxygen support. and antibiotics.
Dead tissue in and around the burn must be removed and daily wound cleaning and bandage changes are necessary. Pain medications will also be given either orally or intravenous. In extreme cases a feeding tube may be inserted. Multiple skin graft surgeries will also be required.
Some owners choose to euthanize rather than put their dog through the extensive and painful treatments required. Some veterinarians may suggest euthanasia if the burns are extensive and recovery is doubtful.
Recovery of Thermal Burns in Dogs
Dogs that have first or second degree burns have an excellent chance of making a full recovery with proper veterinary care. Treatment plans will vary depending on the severity of the burns. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations to ensure that your dog’s recovery is complete.
Dogs that have third and fourth degree burns will take longer to heal and will have much more intensive treatments. Your veterinarian will speak with you regarding the best treatment plan for your dog as well as the length of time these treatments will take. Recovery times will also be discussed during this time.
Thermal Burns Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Horrible 3rd degree burns from a heating element during surgery. My story is similar to the little dog Aero. His story seems almost identical to my Zeus's experience at the vet during surgery. My little guy is a rat terrier. He ate something that was causing blockage in his intestines. This happened about 4 years prior and I knew the symptoms. I took him to a vet in a neighboring town because I knew that their pricing was much less expensive
for surgery and they do spay/neuter for the local animal shelter. I had adopted a cat there before. My experience was beyond horrible.
First of all, they tried to get me for every test imaginable. Every day and told me that Zeus was going to die if I did not get more tests, etc. I knew that this was untrue. He had a blockage and nothing more.
He had the surgery and was fine and they showed me a piece of a cooked potato and told me that was what was blocking his intestines. I knew that this was from my beef stew and smashed it with my fingers. I never found out what caused the blockage. About 10-12 days later he began vomiting again. I took him back in and they told me that he swallowed something again and had blockage again. I knew this to be untrue because he was never out of my sight. He still had the stitches in from the first surgery. After expensive ultrasound and x-rays, they said that he would die if I did not have another (more expensive surgery). Now it was going to be 5k-8k because it was considered a specialty surgery, which I could never afford. I knew that he did not eat anything that would cause blockage.
I had to fly out of town the next day for Thanksgiving. I did not know what to do, so I packed him up and took him on the plane. SUDDENLY THE NEXT DAY, he began getting large lesions on his back. They were long and deeper than all the layers of his skin. He had no blockage and was fine, except for his skin was starting to die and fall off. His entire back became cracked open with oozing liquids and flesh exposed.
When I arrived back home, I went to another vet. He determined that Zeus was scorched while under anesthesia. He said that the 3rd degree burn timeline was consistent with a the surgery date. He told me that all of the skin on his back was going to fall off and it did. His back was open flesh and some of it was also falling off. I had to scrape it and cut skin off every day. The thickness was similar to thick leather. Zeus was given heavy antibiotics and I had to change his bandages 3x a day for the first month, while applying triple antibiotic ointment. It was awful for both of us. I could not afford the skin grafting. It has been 3 months and the last scab has finally fallen off. His entire back is scar tissue and the skin will not grow back.
The operating vet denied that they did this to my dog. They wanted me to come in for more tests to determine if he had a skin infection.... MORE $ to them for doing this to my dog?? I never went back to them and will give them a horrible Yelp review soon. I cannot prove that they did this to my dog, but I am 100% sure that they did.
My concern today is that the area surrounding the burn scars seems to be losing hair. I don't know if this is a result of the severe burn or something else. It seemed ok for in the beginning, but now he is losing quite a bit of hair and his skin is visible. I would love any insight into what could be happening to his hair.
I have lots of photos if it is possible to post.
Thank you in advance, Patty
100% you have a case! They are at falt as we just went through the same thing with our maltese. 3rd degree burns from the heating pad they use when doing surgery. Many vets just lay them on it without a blanket hence the burns. This has to stop!!!
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My Maltese shihtzu has addisons disease and was admitted with hypothermia 2 weeks ago. When we got him home, we noticed a burn on his hip and took him straight to the vet. To my surprise, the vet admitted that this burn was caused by the heating pads.
Its not been 2 weeks and, after a black, hard scab formed, it is now coming away and revealing granulated tissue covered with a thick, yellow surface. I don't know what to do to help him now as it's looking incredibly nasty.
He yelps if anything makes contact (suggesting no Or little nerve damage) but I'm extremely concerned that this occurred at a vet and have had no follow up care.
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My scnoodle had dental surgery 3 weeks ago yesterday and suddenly he has a huge swollen mass under his skin that has started oozing bloody discharge yesterday. After taking him to back to vet today and shaving, he has what looks to be a severe burn and the discharge is coming from beneath the brown skin with a u shaped red crater. My dog didn't get burned at home and they cannot seem to tell me whats wrong with him. I believe he was burned with a thermal burn and it's just now showing up bursting with the discharge and they are afraid to fess up. Could this be? I can send photo.
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Burn caused by snow melt on my dog stomach, stomach and back legs are red and blistered i feel that these were caused by snow melt, is there any home remedy for the following
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Please I need some advice
My Double Dapple Dachshund, Aero,(he is about 1 and 4 months, born deaf) went in for castration Thursday 23/08/2018. The vet gave him an extra dose of anesthesia as he started wagging his tail as she started operating.
He didn't recover consciousness after we took him home so I decided to take him to work with me instead. that afternoon he stopped breathing and I rushed him to the closest animal hospital (not the same institution where the castration was done) while my friend was doing her best at CPR.
The doctor there put him on oxygen. His blood pressure was extremely weak and she struggled to get him on a drip, but eventually managed.
He was placed in a kennel along with a heat-pad to get his temperature up. He only regained consciousness the Saturday morning. He was discharged Monday 28/08/2018.
That evening I noticed he had a spot on his chest that was giving of a pus-like wetness. So...Tuesday morning I was back at the animal hospital with him. The doctor diagnosed skin necrosis, most probably from an allergic reaction to the anesthesia.
Someone asked me whether it could be a thermal burn, but the doctor said not likely as it only a selected area.
The area is not so selected anymore. The whole left side of my dogs skin is affected. He is split open from his belly up to his chest right up to the middle of his back, the same length as underneath.
It is really nerve wrecking to see. He is a little fighter and seem to be doing good under the circumstances. They told me he will be there for quite a long time and that skin graphs will most probably be needed later on.
How do I determine whether it is actually necrosis due to an allergic reaction to the overdose anesthesia he had, or perhaps negligence on a heat-pad?
I have taken photo's daily when I visit, I can send them to you if you wish
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