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Severe burn injury, burn shock, and smoke inhalation injury in small animals. Part 2: diagnosis, therapy, complications, and prognosis


  • Lindsay Vaughn DVM, DACVECC,

    Corresponding author
    • New England Animal Medical Center, West Bridgewater, MA
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  • Nicole Beckel DVM, DACVECC,

  • Patricia Walters VMD, DACVIM, DACVECC

  • The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to

Dr. Lindsay A. Vaughn, 595 West Center St., West Bridgewater, MA, 02379, USA.




To review the evaluation and treatment of patients suffering from severe burn injury (SBI), burn shock, and smoke inhalation injury. Potential complications and prognosis associated with SBI are also discussed.


Diagnosis of burn injury and burn shock is based on patient history and clinical presentation. Superficial burn wounds may not be readily apparent for the first 48 h whereas more severe wounds will be evident at presentation. Patients are diagnosed with local or SBI by estimating total body surface area involved using the ‘Rule of Nines’ or the Lund-Browder chart adapted from the human literature.


Patients suffering from SBI require immediate and aggressive fluid therapy. Burn wounds require prompt cooling to prevent progressive tissue damage. Due to significant pain associated with burn wounds and therapeutic procedures, multimodal analgesia is recommended. Daily wound management including hydrotherapy, topical medications, and early wound excision and grafting is necessary with SBI.


There are numerous complications associated with SBI. The most common complications include infections, hypothermia, intra-abdominal hypertension, and abdominal compartment syndrome.


The prognosis of SBI in domestic animals is unknown. Based on information derived from human literature, patients with SBI and concomitant smoke inhalation likely have a worse prognosis than those with SBI or smoke inhalation alone.