Electrical Cord Bite Injuries
Monday, 09 March 2015 08:07

We’ve all heard the stories of critters being electrocuted when they chew on electrical cords. But, in all my years in dogs, I’ve never had a cord chewer, or really any dogs (or puppies!) that destroy much of anything they shouldn’t. I know I am lucky, and I cannot tell you why they don’t chew. Anyway, I recently learned the hard way you don’t have to have a cord chewer, per se, to have a dog get an electrical cord bite injury.

Sansa, a few days after her injuryFriday, February 27th, I was working from home, so all the dogs were out except Sansa’s not-quite 7 week old puppies and my Afghan Hound, Fiona. The puppies were in their weaning pen in the sunroom. I’d just put Fi in her crate (in the same room), because she was in and out, tracking melting snow everywhere; she is such a snow hound she will literally stick her head in a snow drift and rub it around. I was de-cluttering the sunroom over my lunch break, and I’d moved a toy bin from its temporary place in a corner by the weaning pen. It was covering a slightly exposed electrical cord on the outside of the weaning pen that led to the heating pad for the puppies. The pad was carefully positioned under the thick washable puppy pads in the pen, and the cord was woven up between the expen and taped to the weaning pen board so the puppies couldn’t possibly get to it. It came out on the adult side of the pen for about 5 inches, and then went to an extension cord on the other side of another expen that protects our potted plants from dog “watering.”

I came up the basement steps with some laundry. Sansa and Arya were wrestling in the sunroom, near the corner where the toy bin has been since the weaning pen went up. I took the laundry to the other end of the house. I planned on folding it and then going back to the dining room to get back to work. I was folding, and all of a sudden, I heard a sound come out of Fiona I’ve never heard before, and then a low, weird sound…kind of a commotion. Fiona kept up this weird screaming and I headed toward the other end of the house, wondering what the heck was going on, yelling as I went. I thought, is someone heading towards a fight? I got to the sunroom, and I could see Sansa’s butt, her back on the floor, in the corner where the toy bin had been earlier in the day. Arya and Ryan were on top of her. For a split second, I thought they might be ganging up on her, but the body language wasn’t consistent with a fight. I moved them out of the way (after the fact, I realized they had been hovering over her, concerned) and to my horror, I saw Sansa’s teeth clamped hard around that heating pad cord. Her whole body was stiff and vibrating, and her eyes were rolled back in her head. I am pretty sure I screamed, and put my left hand in her mouth behind the cord, trying desperately to pry her jaws off the cord and break the circuit. I was thinking, “No, no, no, not THIS bitch!” The heating pad cordIn retrospect, that’s kind of funny, since I am pretty sure I would have thought that no matter who it was. I shocked myself, and then thought, “Unplug the cord! NOW!” I grabbed the end of the extension cord, which also had the webcam plugged into it, and yanked. I felt the plug release, and reached back into Sansa’s mouth to get her mouth off that cord. I got shocked again, and her mouth was still tight on the cord. I had no idea why that was happening; I only knew I HAD to break that circuit. Somehow, in a split second, I was able to yank the heating pad end out from under the weaning pen. It had probably taken me 10 minutes to originally weave that darn thing under there, but somehow I got it out in a second. Holding the heating pad end, I did the only thing I could think of; I gave the cord a very quick, incredibly hard fling toward the floor, and it was enough force to break Sansa’s hold on the cord. She was close enough to the floor she wasn’t flung very far, and at least she wasn’t still being shocked. I am usually pretty calm in a dog emergency, though I might be a bit loud. Not this time. This was the scariest thing I had ever seen in all my years in dogs; that tiny girl clamped down on that ^$&%* cord with her bladder and bowels evacuated; the image flashes in my head and still makes me break out in a cold sweat. Perhaps because I didn’t know exactly what to do. I was definitely NOT calm.

I assessed her, and while she looked like hell, she was still breathing and had a slow heartbeat. I quickly started flinging adults into crates, and I did the first thing I could think of; I called Christine. I was spluttering and crying, because I didn’t know if Sansa would even live. As I said, I knew very little about electrical cord bite injuries, and she had been clamped on that 110-volt cord, conservatively, for at least 30-50 seconds. Poor Christine was at work, and couldn’t even understand me. I finally blurted out “SANSA WAS ELECTROCUTED!!” Then I managed to get my head on a little better and said, “She’s still alive. Call my vet and tell them I am on my way.” I got in the car, no purse, no coat, my girl in my lap. Her eyes, which had been rolled back in her head, were now looking forward, but were totally glassy and she had drool coming from her mouth. Her body was so stiff. On the way to the vet, I could feel her heart returning to what felt like a more normal rhythm. Every few minutes, she would swallow, hard. Right before we got there, she sighed deeply, but her body still felt weird and stiff. I was praying she would be okay. The team at my veterinarian's office were waiting for me, thanks to Christine, with oxygen and the whole works. They immediately took her from me and ran her in the back to assess her condition. By the time they brought her back out to me, she was wagging her tail for treats and doing her cute little stretchy dog thing. She looked totally normal. The only evidence anything had even happened to her were the severe, bloody burns to her little mouth, one on each cheek, to one side of her tongue and to the outside corner of her mouth. The burn to the right side of her mouth was larger than a quarter. My vet put her on pain management and a week of antibiotics, all for her mouth. She said her heart and lungs sounded good, and that she should be fine, but I was to watch for a pulmonary edema (fluid in her lungs). The lungs often fill with fluid within twelve hours of an electrical cord bite injury, due to the electricity rupturing tiny capillaries in the lungs. After this information, *I* had to sit down. I couldn’t feel the tip of my middle finger, it had been shocked so much, and my whole left arm was numb. Even worse was playing the whole thing over and over in my head.  I couldn't imagine how Sansa felt if my arm felt so weird; after all, she was shocked WAY more than I was.  But here she was, acting as if nothing strange had happened.  Dogs are my heroes, truly.

When I returned home, I realized when I yanked the cord out of the extension, I yanked the webcam out totally, but the heating pad was only partially unplugged, which is why the circuit was still completing and was so difficult to break.

Fiona, our sweet heroine!While I wasn’t right there when it happened, I am pretty sure Sansa got her mouth around that cord in the act of wrestling with Arya. She is not a chewer, and certainly not in the middle of a play session. If it hadn’t been for Fiona alerting, it would have been likely a lot further along before I realized anything bad was happening. Fiona truly was a hero (heroine?) in this situation. Dogs are so incredible in so many ways, and I am grateful. Grateful that Sansa is okay (her mouth is healing), grateful that Fiona recognized something was wrong and yelled about it, grateful Ryan and Arya were concerned over Sansa rather than attacking her in a moment when she was obviously completely vulnerable. Grateful for Christine, and my vet and her team. Grateful to the powers higher than me that this lesson didn’t have to be a *really* hard one.

A lamp cord covered with 1/4 inch split loom tubingI have decided to cover all exposed cords in areas accessible to the dogs with split loom tubing. I bought ¼ inch for regular cords, and ¾ inch for thicker cables and cords. One hundred feet of each was only $22 on Amazon. Chances are, had there been tubing over the heating pad cord, I wouldn’t know more than I ever wanted to about electrical cord bite injuries, which is really the way I would have preferred it. A great in-depth article, including first aid, about electrical cord bite injuries can be found here

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Last Updated on Monday, 09 March 2015 10:00