1. Substances that burn your pet’s skin can be dangerous to you. Wear rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and eye protection if there is any possibility of contact with these substances.
  2. Flush the skin surface with large volumes of tap water. Do not use cold or hot water as this can cause hypothermia or exacerbate burns. Dab dry with a towel – do not blow dry or rub vigorously as this can traumatise burned skin.
  3. Contact your veterinarian for further advice, informing them of the product and estimated amount your pet has come into contact with.
  4. Depending on the advice given, it may be helpful to wash your pet with a mild hand dishwashing detergent (do not use strong detergents, machine washing detergents or laundry detergents as these are corrosive).
  5. If possible, check your pet’s mouth for any ulcers or sores. If these are present seek veterinary attention immediately.
  7. Once you have bathed your pet, if possible place an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking of the skin and contact your veterinarian.


Chemical burns are injuries caused by contact with strong acids, phenols or corrosive substances that result in tissue injury.


The full extent of burn wounds may take up to 3 days to develop. During this time tissue damage can progress, especially if there are traces of the chemical still present on the skin.

Signs include:

  • Reddened, inflamed skin which may be warm to touch
  • Blistering
  • Serous to pussy discharge
  • Pain on contact
  • Discolouration of the skin
  • Sloughing of tissue
  • Increased or decreased sensation to pain in the affected area

Animals often lick these substances off their skin, causing burns to the tongue and oral cavity. Affected animals may have obvious ulcers on the tongue or in the mouth, be salivating profusely, regurgitate (in the case of oesophageal burns) or be off their food.


Common sources of substances that can cause chemical burns are often found in household products and include:

  • Acids: toilet bowl cleaners, battery acid, metal cleaners, rust removers, concrete cleaners, sulphuric acid.
  • Bases: bleach, drain cleaners, over cleaners, ammonia substances, toilet bowl cleaners, Lysol, potash, pool chlorinating solutions, lime;
  • Solvents: phenols (including wound disinfectants), turpentine, paint thinners, gasoline, kerosene;
  • Oxidising agents: bleaches, peroxide, manganates.


Burns are classified as superficial partial thickness, deep partial thickness or full thickness. Different types of burns warrant different treatment and management strategies.

In the case of chemical burns, dermal decontamination is required to remove all traces of the chemical that is still in contact with the animal’s skin. Even if you have performed some degree of dermal decontamination your veterinarian may perform additional decontamination. In severe cases or with very distraught animals sedation or even anaesthesia may be required to decontaminate the skin properly.

Animals that have swallowed chemicals that cause burning may require gastric lavage (flushing of the stomach), and gastroprotectants. In severe cases a feeding tube may need to be placed.

Management is the same as for burns [see section on burns]


Human antiseptic preparations often contain phenols, which cause chemical burns in animals. Do not apply antiseptic preparations to wounds on pets without first seeking veterinary advice. If in doubt, use saline.


Garzotto CK (2009) Thermal burn injury. In: Small Animal Critical Care Medicine. Ed. Silverstein DC & Hopper K. Missouri, USA: Saunders Elsevier.

House A (2013) Medical and Surgical Management of Burns in Companion Animals. Webinar organised by Lort Smith Animal Hospital, Melbourne, Australia, hosted by Vet Education

Greer RJ & Mann FA (2008) Burns. In: Handbook of Small Animal Practice. 5thEdn. Morgan RV (ed.). Missouri, USA: Saunders Elsevier