Claim of the Month: Electrical Shock

Illustration of a dog biting a cord from a Christmas tree

Claim of the month: electrical shock

Pet: *Duke, a 4-year-old male poodle mix

Duke’s story:

Duke’s family thought the wild days of puppy misadventures were long behind him. At four years old, he’d settled into the lifestyle of the perfect pet. 
When they heard him cry out in pain, they were shocked to find him in another room with a chewed electrical cord in his mouth. Duke had urinated and defecated immediately after the accident and was hiding from his owners. He wouldn’t let them look at his mouth.

They immediately took him to the local emergency hospital where he received a pain injection and a thorough examination. No obvious burns could be seen, but it was clear that Duke was in pain. Duke’s veterinary team knew that the first 24-48 hours after an electrical shock are a critical time when dangerous complications can reveal themselves. They collected information about Duke’s condition and admitted him for close monitoring over the next two days. They wanted to be able to recognize problems and act quickly if they arose.

About the condition: electrical shock

Curious animals are susceptible to electrical shock when they chew cords and explore unprotected indoor and outdoor spaces. Veterinarians see more cases of electrical shock around the holidays (festive lights), during hot weather (fans) and when pet owners are using electrical equipment (gardening, renovations, etc.). Young animals are more likely to suffer from electric shocks, as they are more prone to chewing.

The damage caused by electrical shock depends on the size of the animal, how long they were exposed and the current and voltage of the electricity involved. Many times, shock incidents are not witnessed, so pet owners and veterinarians have to make guesses about the severity of the exposure. Using a “better safe than sorry” philosophy and assuming a worst-case scenario is the wisest approach to diagnosing and treating electrocution.

Electricity can cause thermal burns at the point of exposure (often the mouth) and along the path that the electricity takes through the body. It can disrupt neurological and cardiac function, leading to seizures, tremors and cardiac arrhythmia. It can also injure the gastrointestinal tract, leading to vomiting, diarrhea and appetite loss. Most importantly, electrical shock is notorious for causing a condition known as non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema: swelling and fluid accumulation in the lungs that can appear any time in the 36 hours after a shock event. This lung injury can cause difficulty breathing, coughing, or impaired oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange.

Shock is a very serious accident that has the potential to cause immediate death. Veterinarians know that an animal might look relatively normal immediately after the incident, but may develop complications that can lead to rapid deterioration and death in the 2 days following the injury.

Treatment

Upon admission, Duke’s chest and abdomen were investigated using x-ray and ultrasound imaging, looking for signs of thermal injury and pulmonary edema. He had ECG monitoring to rule out arrhythmias of the heart and blood was taken to evaluate any internal organ dysfunction, clotting problems, and electrolyte abnormalities.

Continuous monitoring of his comfort and vital signs was provided over the next two days. His respiratory rate and effort, as well as his blood oxygenation were watched closely. He received pain control and IV fluid therapy while in the hospital. Imaging was repeated to ensure that no edema developed over time.

Fortunately, Duke did not develop any of the serious complications that can result from electrocution. His care team identified oral pain as the main issue to manage after his accident. After he exited the critical 48-hour monitoring phase, he was discharged with his owners to continue pain control and a soft diet at home. A re-check of his mouth was planned with his regular veterinarian in the 2-3 days after he was released from the hospital.

Claim outcome

Pets Plus Us pack member, Duke, is expected to recover well from his shocking experience. He needed more than $2,978.70* in veterinary care and monitoring after the accident.
His family was reimbursed, $2,282.96* through their Pets Plus Us Accident plan.

We hope you feel better very soon, Duke!

Learn more about our Accident plan

*Pet's name was changed for privacy *Source: 2022 PTZ Insurance claims data. Value of claims in $ CAD.