This HOW TO was originally published in February 2011. We’re reposting it due to several dogs being zapped recently by stray voltage in Brooklyn, N.Y.
On Thanksgiving 2010, as Lisa McKibbin walked Sammy, a German Shorthaired Pointer, down a Seattle street, he stepped on a metal plate next to a lamppost and began crying.
“Then he just started screeching and yelping in pain,” McKibbin told the Seattle Times. “I thought he had stepped on something sharp. Then he just started convulsing and collapsed.”
A passerby performed CPR, and when McKibbin tried to pry open Sammy’s mouth to help, she got an electric shock from inside his mouth. The otherwise healthy, 6-year-old dog died soon afterward.
It turns out the lamppost was not properly grounded. McKibbin plans to sue Seattle City Light.
While this may seem like a freak accident, two other dogs were electrocuted in January.
An 8-month-old Labrador named Luna was fatally electrocuted when she stepped on a manhole cover while on a walk in Providence, R.I. The electric company told turnto10.com that a frayed wire connected to a nearby pole had shorted out. The manhole cover was covered by a shallow pool of water and salt when Luna stepped on it.
In Toronto, a Labrador-Poodle mix named Mrak died when he tried to urinate on a power pole. Like Sammy, Mrak stepped on a metal plate. Police told Canada.com that crews found a live electrical wire at the top of the pole. A German Shepherd also died in November after stepping on a metal plate, so the city is inspecting all power poles.
Dogs aren’t the only victims. While Jodie Lane walked her two dogs in New York City in 2004, they both stepped on a metal plate and began frantically biting each other. Downtown Express reported that as Lane tried to separate them, she stepped on the plate herself, was shocked and then fell on her back on top of the plate, which proved to be fatal.
According to Pet Health & Care, “Electrical leakages or ‘stray voltage’ as it is called, is a very old problem that was first associated with farms. However, in recent years this has become a growing concern as there have been numerous injuries and even fatalities related to electrical leakages.”
Your dog is also in danger of getting shocked inside your home from hazards such as frayed electrical cords.
Here’s how to prevent your dog – and yourself – from being injured.
How Can I Prevent My Dog From Getting Shocked?
Street Zaps, an initiative to reduce the risk of contact voltage electrocution by damaged wiring, reports that while dogs can be shocked by stray voltage any time of the year, the most dangerous times are after winter snow storms and heavy summer rains.
“The winter incidents are likely caused when melted snow mixed with salt-based deicers form a saline solution and conduction path from defective or tampered cables and equipment, usually several days after the snowfall,” according to the Street Zaps website. “Summer events usually happen when water builds up or ponds around and infiltrates damaged or defective equipment.”
Street Zaps and Pet Health & Care offers the following advice for when you’re walking your dog:
- Use the same route when walking your dog so you’re familiar with the lampposts and metal plates along the way. “Eyeball the block and avoid a shock,” advises Street Zaps.
- Avoid any lampposts with open panels, which are electrical hazards whether or not the lamp is lit.
- Don’t tie your dog’s leash to a lamppost. Although it may appear to be safe, it could be leaking voltage. Street Zaps also notes that vandals typically have easy access to electrical connections at the base of the poles. “Non-conductive objects and surfaces, unless salted, are always safer options year-round for you and your dog,” according to the website.
- Do not let your dog step on metal manhole covers or plates. “Metal on the street or sidewalk can be electrified if deteriorated or improperly installed,” Street Zaps reports. “Renovation and ongoing construction sites utilizing temporary wiring can create a higher possibility for a shocking incident.”
- Do not let your dog urinate on a power pole.
- Keep your dog away from decorative outdoor lighting. “Its insulation can decay from long-term exposure to temperature change, weather, and even tropical sun,” advises Street Zaps.
- Automated doors and vestibules (such as ATMs) can be dangerous if they are wet.
- Be aware that dog booties do not provide any protection against shocks, especially if they get wet. “In fact, canine shoes may actually increase the chance of a shocking if water logged,” notes Street Zaps.
- Check Street Zaps’ map of shock hot spots for any danger zones near you.
- Get on your knees and do a “dog’s-eye view” inspection of your floors, checking under furniture and inside lower cupboards for electrical cords and any other hazards.
- Throw away any damaged electrical cords in your home. “Even minimal contact with a bare wire can cause serious harm to your dog (making contact with the feet, nose, or tongue, for example),” reports PetMD.com.
- Keep cords at least 6 inches off the floor. “Your dog is much less likely to stand and chew a cord than she is to lie down and enjoy a “teething session” with it.”
- Coat electrical cords with a bitter-tasting spray (such as Bitter Apple) that makes them unappetizing to your dog.
- Unplug the cords for any appliances that are not in use.Give your dog chew toys and praise her when she chews them.
What Should I Do if My Dog is Shocked?
Tragically, in most cases, dogs that have been electrocuted from contact with stray voltage die before they receive medical help, according to Pet Health & Care.
In other cases, veterinarypartner.com notes that every second counts, and offers these suggestions:
- If possible, unplug the electrical object and turn off the electricity.
- If it is not possible to turn off the electricity, then use a dry, non-conducting object made of cardboard, plastic or wood (such as a broomstick) to separate your dog from the electrical object. Make sure you are standing on a dry surface. Do not touch your dog until the object is removed, or the current may pass to your body.
- If your dog is not breathing, immediately perform CPCR.
- If your dog is breathing, check her mouth for burns, and apply cool compresses to them.
- Cover your dog with a blanket to prevent loss of heat.
- Immediately take your dog to a vet or emergency animal hospital, even if she appears to be unharmed.
- Do not give your dog any medications or liquids until she’s examined by your vet.
PetMD.com notes that if your dog has been chewing on cords, these are some of the symptoms of an electrical injury:
- Burns in or around your dog’s mouth
- Singed whiskers or hair around the mouth
- A more serious electrical injury may be indicated by shortness of breath and difficulty breathing; coughing; a rapid heartbeat; crackling noises in the lungs; and, in the worst cases, convulsions and collapse.
Veterinarypartner.com stresses the importance of having your dog thoroughly examined by a vet, even if she doesn’t seem to be injured. “Electrical shock 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,” the website reports.
According to PetMD.com, your dog may need diuretics if she has fluid in her lungs, and may need to be given fluids intravenously if she has a decreased blood supply. Depending on the severity of any burns, your vet will determine the best course of action.
Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.