Just as with children, pets should be protected from electrical hazards around the household. This is particularly important with young animals such as kittens and puppies that are insatiably curious and inclined to chew anything they can get in their mouths. Small mammals with continuously growing teeth – such as rabbits – also enjoy gnawing on things and even some birds, such as parrots, can be a danger to themselves and others as they use their powerful beaks to rip electrical components apart.
Electrical shock is a serious emergency and any animal that has suffered a shock must be rushed to the veterinarian immediately. The symptoms include burns, difficulty breathing, abnormal heart rhythm, loss of consciousness – all of which if left untreated could result in death. For example, if a puppy chews on an electrical cord and receives a shock, its mouth will be severely burned, followed by inflammation and peeling of the tissues. The electrical current may also travel into its body and cause damage to the lungs, which then fill with fluid, effectively “drowning” the puppy if left untreated. Remember, before you approach any animal which has been injured by electrical shock, make sure there is no danger to yourself from live wires or electric fires.
Safety Tips to Follow:
- Secure all loose electrical cords – dangling pieces may tempt young animals to pounce on them or present a choking hazard. Tape any slack to the wall or tuck them out of sight, behind appliances.
- If a portion of cords have to remain in sight, block access to them by wrapping flexible safety cable (from hardware stores) around them or encasing them in plastic tubing (PVC pipe) if possible. Some places do sell “pet-proof’ cords which will protect an animal from shock if it does chew on the cord.
- If your pet shows interest in the cords, coat them with a bitter substance or pet deterrent to discourage chewing.
- Ideally, unplug all accessible electrical cords if you have to leave a young animal unsupervised.
- Be particularly vigilant during holidays (eg, Christmas) as the novel presence of decorative lives and electrical wiring can spell disaster for pets.
- Check any wiring frequently for fraying and replace immediately.
- Make sure any plugs are fully plugged into the socket – a partially exposed prong can be dangerous to a curious paw or nose.
- Do not allow your pet to nap behind electrical appliances, such as computer equipment, stoves, fridges, washers and dryers.
- Be careful with freestanding lamps and exposed bulbs – some can reach very high temperatures (eg, halogen lamps) and if knocked over by a pet in play, could easily start a fire.
- If you have an aquarium, make sure all the electrical cords coming out of the aquarium are equipped with drip loops, which will ensure that any water running down the cord will fall to the floor rather than travel up the cord and into the electrical outlet.
- In the case of an electrical storm, bring all your pets indoors. Although being struck by lightening is rare, wind, rain and lightening can bring down power lines which are a serious hazard.
- If your pet has an outdoor fenced area, be careful of any underground electrical or cable lines running through that area – make sure they are buried at appropriate depths, especially if you have a dog which likes to dig.
- Make sure you fit correct fuses and circuit breakers and allow air space around appliances to prevent overheating.
No matter how diligent you are, it is impossible to supervise your pet all of the time and young animals have a habit of getting into trouble the minute your back is turned. Therefore, prevention is better than cure and a bit of time and effort spent pet-proofing your home and garden is far preferable to the trauma of an accident and expensive vet bill.