Puppy Problems: Preventing Electric Cord Injuries

Photo: Dr. Philip Fox

Although the cute animal pictured here may look like a Jack Russell Terrier, she and her sister are behaving more like beavers. With their razor sharp puppy teeth, they have severed several plugs from the ends of cords, one of which you can see in the photo below, as well as a cell phone charger and the corners of the kitchen cabinets.

Puppies love to chew and their major chewing effort occurs during teething. Peak teething in puppies is between 4 and 7 months of age. Chewing is dangerous because the urge to chew coincides with greater freedom to roam the house as puppies become more reliably housebroken. Electric cords are especially dangerous because if the cord is plugged in during the chewing episode, an ER visit may be required. The electric current traveling through the body can cause severe oral burns, facial swelling, heart arrhythmias, fluid in the lungs and sudden death.

What should a dog owner give to their chew happy pup? Veterinarians have taken some formerly favorite chew toys off the approved list. Veterinary dentists have taken tennis balls off since the furry yellow covering is abrasive to tooth enamel. Hard nylon chew toys are gone too since they can fracture teeth and previously I have recommended bones be taken off the list.

What did I recommend to the frustrated Jack Russell Terrier owner? I recommended distracting the puppies from chewing household items by providing them with plenty of exercise and safe chew toys. Tired puppies are less likely to chew, because they will be napping. A walk around the block may not be enough exercise for a frisky puppy. Make sure your puppy has a good hour every day of exercise, either romping with another dog or chasing balls with you.

A trip to the local pet store is also helpful in preventing dangerous chewing. While browsing the pet store aisles, I found several toys made of natural rubber to recommend. First were puzzle toys. These devices roll and wobble. As the puppy nudges them with their nose, the toy moves and a piece of dry food falls out as a reward. Puppies quickly learn to move the toy around to get more food. Another type of food dispensing toy is stuffed with canned dog food or a sticky treat like peanut butter. The puppy can lick and chew to get the food out of the central cavity and will be so busy they will forget about chewing on electric cords. Yet another puzzle toy is one with a slot holding a specially manufactured treat. As the toy is chewed, the rubber deforms and out comes the treat, rewarding your puppy and encouraging more chewing of the chew toy.

Puppies are spontaneous, delightful additions to the family, but just like a new baby needs nearly constant attention, a new puppy requires supervision, training and medical care to keep them safe and healthy.

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.

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