Electric blankets are designed to keep you warm on cold nights. But what about your pets? Are electric heating pads and blankets safe for cats and dogs, particularly those who share the bed with their humans?
One thing that every animal lover should know: It’s best to err on the side of caution. Keep your pets off the bed and keep electric blankets switched off when they’re not being used, just to be safe.
Why? Electric blankets work by sending a low-level current through a metal plate in the blanket itself. This heats up fabric or fibre until it feels warm to our skin, similar to how a toaster or oven works.
A warm, sleeping pet is a good thing when dealing with the chill of winter. But if they need that warmth all night long, electric blankets can pose dangers.
It’s possible for pets to be burned by an electric blanket in two different ways: they could directly touch one of the wires through their contact with the blanket, or they could receive an electric shock through contact with someone who’s plugged into the blanket.
An article published in 2003 by veterinary experts at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine notes that the former is more likely than the latter because “animals are generally unable to release themselves from an electric heating pad.”
Yet even that is a risk.
“Even low voltages can cause burns in the mouth, esophagus and stomach,” Dr. Louise Murray, vice-president of ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH), tells The Huffington Post. “We’ve had patients come in with serious injuries from chewing on electric cords.”
Cats are especially vulnerable because they’re prone to suckling on objects while they sleep. The same article states that it’s not uncommon for veterinary professionals to treat cats who’ve sucked in or eaten electric cords.
Pet owners should also keep their pets off the bed when the blanket is turned on, just like you would with a stovetop or oven. It’s designed to get hot, and there’s no way of knowing how your pet will react to that heat until it’s too late.
“Even a low-powered electric blanket could cause problems for unruly pets,” Murray says. “Our dog Cooper was always the first one in the bed and last one out, and we had to keep him off of them.”