Electrocution: First Aid

December 31, 1994 (published) | July 10, 2018 (revised)

In order to avoid injury to yourself, it is imperative that you do not touch the pet until the electrical source has been turned off or moved. Electricity can flow through your pet and affect you as well.

Electrocution can cause severe tissue damage (like a thermal or heat burn can) and can also lead to serious internal complications like pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs). Immediate veterinary care is needed, but several things you can do at home can minimize the extent of the injury and promote healing.

What to Do

  • Unplug the electrical cord or shut off the electricity. 
  • If this is not possible, use a dry wooden broom or other non-conductive object to move the pet away from the source of the electricity.  
  • Check for breathing and pulse. Begin CPR if necessary.  
  • If the pet is breathing, check the mouth for burns if this can be done safely. Apply cool compresses to burns.  
  • Cover the pet with a blanket to prevent heat loss.  
  • Seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

What NOT to Do

  • Do not fail to get the pet examined even though he or she seems perfectly normal after being separated from the source of electricity. 
  • Do not give any medications or liquids unless instructed to by a veterinarian.

Any animal that has suffered electrocution should be taken to a veterinarian, even if there are no apparent complications. Electrocution is a life-threatening emergency. It may cause abnormal electrical activity of the heart or a build-up of fluid in the lungs that could be fatal hours after the shock. Most patients are observed for several hours or overnight to make sure the lungs are normal, and chest x-rays may be recommended.

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