Burn is an injury of tissue caused by heat, flame, chemicals, friction, radiation or electricity. Burns are caused by dry heat and a scald is caused by moist heat, such as hot oil, wax or water. Burn classification determines the severity of the wound based on the depth of the tissue injury and are classified as:
First degree burns are limited to redness and minor pain at the site of injury. These burns only involve the top layer of skin and heal quickly.
Second degree burns have superficial blistering of the skin, and can involve deeper layers of the skin.
Third degree burns occur when the top layer of skin is lost with damage to the deeper layers. Burns exhibit charring and extreme damage. Third-degree burns result in scarring and may require skin grafting.
Fourth and fifth degree burns involve deep muscles and bones respectively.
Successful management requires intensive fluid resuscitation, surgical debridement and comprehensive supportive care. Burn severity can be described as a percentage of total body surface area (TBSA), with major burns affecting greater than 10 percent TBSA, and severe burns affecting greater than 20 percent TBSA, leading to life-threatening systemic complications.
What to do
For light burns
- Apply honey, aloe vera or coconut oil multiple times a day for reducing the burning sensation. Further, anti-allergic drugs and pain-killers can be given to animals for relief.
- Silver sulphadiazine ointment can best aid in such condition.
- Traditionally some people bathe the affected animal with vinegar which is helpful in acid burns.
- In some areas, honey is used for dressing the wound and getting relief from the pain.
- Another remedy is to wash and finely grate raw potato and applying pulp on the wound.
- Some people use egg whites or toothpaste for providing relief from burns.
- All the above methods are used for providing temporary relief from pain and are useful only in case of light burns or first degree burns.
For severe burns
- Extinguish all the flames and avoid touching the animal that has been electrocuted until the power has been turned off.
- Administer a pre-anesthetic to calm the animal and reduce pain so that further treatment can be done.
- For thermal or electrical burns, immediately apply cool water compresses with a clean cloth to the site of the injury, changing them frequently as necessary to keep the site cool and wet. Continue this for at least 30 minutes.
- Cooling is analgesic and improves long-term wound healing; these beneficial effects are seen as long as cooling is within three hours of injury.
- No matter how well the burns are treated if the animal is dehydrated they will die. In the field subcutaneous (under the skin) or oral fluids are the best methods to start the hydration process. It is advisable to start intravenous line for providing fluid therapy but if IV fluids cannot be administered, provide electrolytes orally or give fluids subcutaneously.
- Ringer’s lactate solution can be considered as the standard crystalloid for fluid resuscitation in burnt animals. Administration of colloid or albumin should be delayed for 24 hours following injury, as increased vascular permeability can exacerbate edema.
- Rub honey or jaggery on the gums of the animal as glucose source.
- Use a wet-to-dry bandage; a bandage that is applied as wet but dries on the animal. It is the first line of treatment in field conditions and can easily be made by using 4 to 5 sterile gauze pads soaked in sterile water or normal saline solution. Apply it by pressing the pad over the burn and cover it with a larger, dry pad and hold it in place with rolled gauze. Remove and re-apply this bandage approximately four to five times during the first few days.
- Smoke inhalation leads to pulmonary complication and treatment protocols for inhalation injury must include bronchial hygiene therapy and oxygen supplementation.
- If the wound is extensive, wash the wound with sterile water or boil water, cool it down and then use to wash the burn wound. In case of acid burns, rinse the chemical off the skin or eyes by applying a light stream of water over it. Rinse for at least 20 minutes.
- Apply Silver Sulphadiazine or Betadine ointment on the burn area to provide primary healthcare to animal. Don’t use Dettol or Savlon as they are irritants. In case, ointments are not available, coconut oil can be used for first degree burns.
- Pain can be subsided by providing animal with NSAIDs Meloxicam, Flunixine Meglumine, etc.
- Anti-allergic drugs like Pheniramine, Diphenhydramine, etc. can be given.
- Use of antibiotics is advised to prevent secondary infection in the burn wound.
- In case acid is used as burning agent and eyes are involved, wash eyes with normal saline solution and use antibiotic-corticosteroid based eye drops. If burn is caused by Carbolic Acid or Phenol, first flush with alcohol to rinse away traces of the acid. And then rinse with water. If the burn is caused by Sulfuric Acid, use a mild soapy solution if the burn is not severe. Make a solution of bicarbonate of soda by adding a large amount of baking soda to a small amount of water. Follow with a rinse of water.
- For managing second degree burns in which blistering occurs, apply a light gauze to the blister. After the blister bursts, go for antiseptic dressing. Use gauge for dressing as fibres in cotton ball stick to wound and cause pain and irritation.
- For major wounds, surgical debridement may be required and should be done under general anesthesia. The wound can be sutured and in case of extensive tissue loss, can be left un-sutured for healing by second intention.
- The animal should be kept warm and quiet. Provide plenty of fluids. Make sure that the patient eats.
- Major burns cause a hyper-metabolic state characterized by hyperglycemia and catabolism of body protein stores. A high-energy critical care diet is therefore recommended, with additional vitamin E supplementation.
- The most important point is to call your veterinarian or transporting your pet to a veterinary facility as soon as possible for further care. All the protocols should be undertaken under the supervision of a veterinarian.
What NOT to do
- Do not apply butter or vegetable oils.
- Do not delay seeking veterinary attention.
- Do not attempt to remove burned hair or skin yourself.
- Sheep are more prone to fire injuries than other livestock. They run in a flock during fire incidences and due to this, the animals on the outside of the flock get burn injuries and those in the middle sometimes escape injury completely. Sheep in full wool are less likely to have severe burns than those just off shears. The outer fleece can be charred but the skin may be unaffected. Assessment of face, ears, lips, anus, vulva, teats, penis, prepuce, scrotum, axilla, inguinal areas, legs and feet should be done regularly. The affected sheep is prone to flystrike and infections and therefore should be dealt accordingly. Goats are less protected from fires due to their coat of hair as compared to sheep and therefore, the animals must be inspected individually.
- Cattle and horses usually escape the path of fire and gets entrapped only due to fences. Although they respond well to treatment and the condition of the animals should be assessed for better treatment.
- Pigs and poultry are most susceptible to heat stress and gets largely affected. The burnt animals and birds should be isolated and treated individually.
- Ensure that the animals are on the softest, most level ground available, especially if their feet are burnt.
- They have ready access to good-quality feed and water. They should be given high-protein feeds such as quality lucerne or hay.
- They are checked often to confirm they can move to water and can drink.
- They are treated for worms, especially after rain.
- Check all animals regularly for signs of deterioration, in particular check for flystrike on burnt areas and feet. Seek veterinary advice.
The imperative is to ensure euthanasia is conducted humanely, efficiently, competently and without delay only after proper assessment of affected animals.
For Further Reading
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