Electrical Safety for Pet Owners

14 September 2016 | Rachel England

We’re a nation of pet lovers. According to the RSPCA, nearly 50% of us own a pet, and there are more than 8.5 million canine companions and 7.4 million feline friends at home in the UK. Most of us would say our pets are like members of the family, so of course you want to keep them safe and happy. Here’s how to minimise electrical dangers to your furry friends. 

How to keep your pet safe from electrical hazards

Just like children, animals can't gage the risks posed by electric appliances, cables and outlets around the house. Here are some simple steps you can take to protect your pets from getting hurt.

Keep cables out of sight\ Electrical cords are one of the primary electrical dangers for pets, who aren’t adverse to chewing them or batting them around with their paws. This inquisitive, playful behaviour can lead to shocks, burns and even fires, so keep wires tucked out of sight. If you can’t effectively hide them behind appliances, pet proof them with plastic piping (most home improvement and computer stores stock inexpensive split loom tubing) and discourage curious paws by coating cables in an unpleasant substance. You can buy special products such as NatureVet Bitter Yuck No Chew spray, but in most cases lemon juice, hot sauce or vinegar will do the trick just fine.

Protecting cables is especially important if your furry friend is still young. Like all babies, puppies and kittens go through the process of teething, and see cables as a welcome chew toy to relieve the uncomfortable pressure. As well as protecting your cables, make sure your pet can always find safer alternatives.

Be vigilant with mobile phone chargers\ It’s tempting to leave your phone charger plugged in and simply use it as and when you need it, but this is bad news for pets who love to chew things! Besides, even an idle charger will draw a small amount of energy from the grid, so getting into the habit of charging your phone a few hours before you go to bed (after 8pm to make the most of off-peak hours if you have an [Economy 7 meter] instead of overnight and unplugging the charger afterwards will protect your wallet as well as your pet.

Keep snoozing pets away from electronic equipment\ Pets, particularly cats, have a tendency to curl up on or behind warm appliances such as computers. Try to dissuade this behaviour by creating a cosy nest for them next to a radiator or by a sunlit window instead. If  your cat is one of those that sneers at anything bought at the pet store, keeping your laptop at an angle by using a notebook stand will also reduce its appeal as a napping spot.

Don’t leave heating equipment unattended\ Portable heaters and oil heaters present a huge safety risk to pets – if they’re excitably bouncing around they could very easily knock them over, causing burns and even house fires. It is also important not to underestimate the appeal held by gadgets such as hair straighteners and curling irons that don't cool down immediately after they have been switched off: Your pet can't always tell the difference between a comfy fur warmer and a red hot styling appliance, and may attempt to snuggle up to it when switched on. You should therefore never leave these appliances unattended and keep them away from animals altogether if possible. The same goes for electric stoves: Buying a hob cover will protect your furball's paws AND give you extra counter space.

Be wary of water\ Water and electricity definitely don’t mix, so be cautious about leaving electrical devices such as radios and irons close to sinks and bathtubs, or any other place where water is used regularly – we all know how clumsy pets can be, or certainly in the case of cats, how much they love to cause mischief! Take extra care if you have an aquarium. Pets are fascinated by fish so make sure all plugs and wiring is secure so they don’t tempt curious paws. Above all, make sure there is always fresh water available for your pet around the house, to minimise risks posed by thirsty pets searching the premises for drinking water. You don't want to have to replace your TV because your cat stuck its head into the watering can on the shelf above it!

Keep lamps out of bounds\ Some bulbs, especially halogen bulbs, can get extremely hot and become a fire hazard if accidentally knocked over. Keep lamps away from pet play areas, and make sure they’re firmly secured to floors or tables.

Pay attention to plug sockets\ Make sure plugs are fully plugged into their sockets, as partially exposed prongs could result in a shock if nuzzled by a wet nose or licked by a curious tongue. Equally important, avoid overloading plug sockets with extension bars or blocks. Not only does this put more of a strain on the socket, but animals can easily become tangled in wires and potentially injure themselves.

Be thunder thoughtful\ Thunderstorms aren’t just scary for pets, they can be dangerous, too. If your pet lives outdoors, bring them in during bad weather, as they often seek shelter in risky places (such as the motor compartment of cars) if left to their own devices. Dogs kept in cages or on chains are more susceptible to lightning strikes. Evidence shows that the best protection from lightning is a fully enclosed building. Pets are far more scared of the loud thunder than they are of lightning, so make sure your indoor pets cannot escape and put themselves at risk.

By the way, if you're a landlord, it's your job to get your properties checked to make sure they're safe. Check out our guide to electrical safety certificates and obligations for landlords

What to do if your pet has had an electric shock

If you think your pet has had an electric shock, it is absolutely vital that you approach them with caution - you don’t want to expose yourself to the source of the shock! You don’t want to distress your pet any more than they already are, either -  an agitated animal can easily make the situation worse by thrashing around, biting or scratching.

If you find your pet still connected to the source of the shock, use a non-conductive item such as a pillow or a (wooden) broom handle to push it away from the live current, then wrap it in a blanket and take it to the vet. Be cautious of any wetness in the area, as many liquids will also conduct electricity. Do not approach your pet if it is lying in a puddle but switch the current off at the mains - it’s the only way to ensure your own safety.

Take them to the vet immediately.

If you find your pet has chowed down on a gadget such as a mobile phone or tablet, seek help straight away. Not only could it cause a serious digestive blockage, but the contents of many electrical items is extremely toxic.

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