Veterinary Handbook Disease Finder



Other Names

  • Electric Shock



Electrocution refers to death or injury resulting from electric shock. Common sources of electricity are electric fences, lightning and fallen overhead transmission lines in outside environments, and faulty wiring in inside environments.

With electric fences, usually individual animals are found dead with electrical wire wrapped around the neck or leg. With lightning, sometimes large numbers of animals are found dead under a tree or along a wire fence, during or after a thunderstorm. If overhead power lines are brought down by a storm, fallen tree, or disintegration of insulators, there may be deaths from animals directly contacting fallen lines, or animals may be found dead in water into which the lines have fallen. Faulty wiring and damage or loss of integrity of insulation or shielding may allow exposed wires to contact pipes (including water pipes), rails or other infrastructure. In some cases animals may be able to reach or contact an exposed wire directly.

Factors determining the severity of the shock, and life or death outcome include the strength of current, point of entry into the body, wetness and area of the skin contacted, and area of contact of the hooves with the wet ground (earthing).

Clinical Signs and Diagnosis

Livestock are usually found dead with no obvious signs. Some animals may show singeing of the hair coat and burnt skin. Some animals recover consciousness in a few minutes, others take hours, and affected animals may suffer permanent neurological deficits. The major differential diagnoses are nitrate-nitrite poisoning, blackleg and bloat.


Administer non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (flunixin meglumine, ketoprofen, meloxicam, or tolfenamic acid) if the animal appears sore, and provide general nursing care as required.


Ensure power lines are maintained and do not fall into disrepair. Check for fallen power lines after storms or strong winds. Electrical fittings on ships should be regularly inspected and maintained with special inspections after rough weather.