Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Treating burns

The Centre for Veterinary Education (it used to be called the Postgraduate Foundation in Veterinary Science) is currently taking enrollments for its online course on Treating Burns in Wildlife. The course is open to vets but also wildlife carers and anyone with an interest in wildlife. I just finished the modules on the weekend - its not too taxing, if you wanted to you could complete all seven modules in a day, the quizzes are extremely easy etc. To enroll go to www.pgf.edu.au (they're not paying me I'm just caring and sharing. Besides I want more people to post on the course discussion board so I have someone to talk to!!!). It costs $355 for members, more if you're not a member, but if you work with animals its tax deductible.

Although the focus is wildlife the course gives a good overview of assessing and staging burns in any animal, pathophysiology of burns, and some practical tips on first aid and treating burns. I don't see much wildlife in my practice because we're right in the middle of the city. There's some really useful stuff on bandaging and dressing burns and also decision making re long term prognosis of patients. Skin is something so easily taken for granted, but once burnt the patient is subject to a myriad of potentially life-threatening sequelae such as dehydration, shock, sepsis, renal failure and disseminated intravascular coagulation - not to mention complications of smoke inhalation (asphyxia, pneumonia). Burns can be very challenging to treat and animals often have a poorer prognosis than their human counterparts with similar burns due to a range of factors.

Common sources of burns in domestic animals include thermal burns from heaters and heat pads (pet reptiles are especially susceptible). I had a cat who singed her fur because she sat that close to the heater and would not move. I think they can get a bit "heat drunk" so we need to look out for them.

Other good burns resources:

Merck M (ed) (2007) Veterinary Forensics: Animal Cruelty Investigations. Blackwell Publishing, Iowa USA. Chapter 7 "Patterns of non-accidental injury: Burns" contains some good information about pathophysiology of different kinds of burns and recognising these in animals.

Scott DW, Miller WH, Griffin CE (eds) Muller & Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology, 6th edition. WB Saunders, Philadelphia. Chapter 16 "Environmental Skin Diseases" has a brief section on burns that raises some interesting points.