Veterinary Practice News

Although burn injuries do not rank among the most common veterinarians encounter in their practices, they may see more of them in coming years. Wildfires are occurring more frequently, and summers are becoming hotter, increasing the risk of dogs burning their paws on hot asphalt and cement.

In addition to wildfires, burn injuries can be caused by house fires, outdoor fires, caustic chemicals, scalding water, electrical injuries, hot radiators, side effects of radiation treatment, and other situations where animals come into contact with fire or extreme heat. No matter the cause, just as with human patients, treating burn injuries in animals consists of managing the systemic effects of the burn injury, ensuring adequate nutrition and fluid intake, dressing the wounds, debriding dead tissue, and managing pain.

After the wildfire that destroyed Lahaina, HI, in August 2023, the Maui Humane Society treated dozens of cats that had burn injuries to their ears, feet, and eyes, along with a dog, a rabbit, and guinea pigs. For dressings, the staff used SSD, SSD with insulin, and honey, says Laurie Gaines, DVM, MHS, Maui Humane Society medical director.

Controlling pain was key to treating the cats burned in the Lahaina wildfire, says Dr. Gaines. Staff and volunteers came in around the clock to give the animals doses of their pain medication. The drugs were supplemented with acupuncture and lasers2 as adjunct pain control methods. “We had a laser donated to us, and that worked really well,” says Gaines. “We used it with the paws when we were doing the bandage changes.”

Special attention had to be paid to the cats with burn injuries on their paws, says Gaines. Their toes melted or fused together, and fur and fur cells trapped in the spaces where their toes used to be, causing pain to the animals, and requiring the amputation of the tissue.

The two veterinarians who have treated animals injured in the California and Maui wildfires say they and their teams have learned helpful lessons to apply when treating animals with burn injuries in the future.

Gaines says her team learned the importance of reaching out for guidance from veterinarians who have experience treating burn injuries. Throughout the weeks and months the Maui Humane Society staff were caring for rescued animals with burn injuries, they were in close contact with veterinary surgeons on Oahu, as well as veterinarians on the mainland who have treated animals injured in wildfires.

Read the full article here.