Dog Hit by a Car? Here’s What to Do! (Our Vet Answers)

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Despite our best efforts to keep our pets safe, sometimes the unthinkable happens. Here are the steps you should take to help your dog if they ever get injured in a road traffic accident or collision.

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What should I do if my dog is hit by a car?

  • Before you do anything else, ensure that it is safe for you to approach the scene of the accident. Don’t panic and run straight out into oncoming traffic- if you get hit, you won’t be able to help your dog. Bystanders may be able to help stop traffic if needed.
  • If necessary, call the police for assistance particularly if an incident has happened on a major highway. You may also need to call for an ambulance if the driver of the car is injured, so check they are ok too- now is not the time to work out who is responsible for the accident.
  • Approach your dog carefully and calmly. He is likely to be scared and hurt, and this can cause even the gentlest dog to lash out. Check to see if he is conscious and if there are any obvious wounds.
  • If you need to, move your pet carefully away from the road to a safer area. If he is lying down, try to keep his spine straight- you may require several people to lift a large dog. A blanket or towel slipped under them can make this easier.
  • Quickly assess your dog’s injuries.
    • If your dog is bleeding heavily, apply pressure to the wound with a clean cloth or towel.
    • If they are having breathing difficulties, make sure that their collar is loose and that there are no obvious physical obstructions in their mouth
  • Phone the nearest open veterinarian (which may be an emergency service) for advice. They will advise you on what to do next depending on your dog’s injuries.
  • You should also remember to swap details with the driver of the car before either of you leaves the scene of the accident.

What happens if my dog is hit by a car?

If your dog is hit by a car there can be a wide array of injuries, from very minor through to fatal. It can depend on how fast the vehicle was traveling, and whether the dog was hit head-on or just suffered from a glancing blow.

Here are some of the most common injury types veterinarians diagnose following a car accident:
  • Cuts and grazes – rough tarmac can cause superficial scrapes and trauma to the skin
  • Bruising – which can occur from the impact of the car or from landing on hard ground
  • Leg injuries – these can range from cuts and grazes, through to de-gloving injuries (where there is a large amount of skin loss), and broken bones
  • Spinal injuries – such as damage to intervertebral discs or a fractured spine
  • Head trauma – fractured jaws, broken teeth, and concussion could all occur if the dog hits its head during a car accident
  • Internal injuries – such as bleeding or damage to major organs like the bladder, spleen, or liver
  • Shock – this is a medical term used to describe a situation where the major organs in the body are struggling to get the oxygen they need. It often happens following a trauma like a car accident and is potentially life-threatening if left untreated
  • Death – some accidents may, unfortunately, be fatal – either instantly or later on as a result of injuries following the accident.  Some dogs may need to be euthanized due to the severity of their injuries.

Transporting an injured dog safely to the veterinarian

Your veterinarian will try and get you to bring your dog to the clinic for further assessment and to administer any treatment that is required. There is a limit as to what can be done for your pet by the side of the road, so getting them to a clinic for a thorough examination is important.

If your dog seems fine, then you can transport them in your car as you would normally, although it might be a good idea to lift them in and out of the car. If your dog has a leg injury then you may need to carry them or make a stretcher to get them safely into your vehicle. You can gently roll your pet and slide a thick blanket or towel underneath them, and then between two people (or more for a large breed dog), you can gently carry them into your vehicle.

French Bulldog sick
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If your dog has a suspected spinal injury then even greater care is required, and a firm board to use as a stretcher would be best, depending on what you have to hand and what you can fit in your vehicle. If in doubt, ask your veterinarian for advice over the telephone.

Be very careful when moving your pet. Even the friendliest animal can bite when hurt or scared, so try and avoid putting your face or hands too close to your pet’s mouth. If you have a muzzle available it may be worth using it, just in case your pet lashes out. You could even consider a makeshift muzzle using a scarf or leash around their mouth, but don’t do this if your dog is having difficulty breathing.

Blankets can be very useful for keeping your pet warm and secure on their journey to the veterinary clinic. Don’t offer them any food or drink until they have been assessed by the veterinarian. Your dog may require surgery, and general anesthetics are much safer on an empty stomach.

What treatment will my dog need?

It is helpful for your veterinarian to know that you are coming down to the clinic, as this will allow them to get all the necessary equipment ready before you arrive.  So, take a moment to give them a call to let them know you are coming.

Assessment

Your veterinarian will assess your dog and examine them for any visible injuries as well as looking for more subtle signs which could indicate shock or internal bleeding. Even if your dog seems fine following his accident it would be a good idea to get him checked out just in case.

If the veterinarian can’t find any issues and there are no serious injuries, then you may be able to take them home to keep an eye on them there.

If they have concerns, however, then they will admit them into the hospital for further monitoring. They may recommend diagnostic imaging such as ultrasound to check for things like internal bleeding, or they might suggest x-rays to look for broken bones or trauma to the chest. This will help them plan what treatment is required for your dog.

Doctor checking up golden retriever
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Fluids, Blood, and Oxygen

Some animals will need to go on to intravenous fluids to help stabilize them by keeping their blood pressure up to counteract the effects of shock. Fluids are also useful for animals suffering from blood loss, but in extreme scenarios, a blood transfusion could be recommended. Oxygen therapy might also be needed if your dog is suffering from breathing difficulties.

Surgical Repair

Surgery under anesthetic may be required for your dog if they have any severe cuts or fractures that need repairing. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the different options, costs involved, and the prognosis. This surgical repair will often be left for a day or two so that any shock and other injuries can show themselves and be treated before the anesthetic.

Home Care

Some animals will be stable enough to be released for monitoring at home, especially when funds are tight. They may be given pain relief and possibly antibiotics at home following treatment at the clinic.

Euthanasia

Sadly, in some cases, euthanasia may be recommended if the injuries are so severe that the animal is unlikely to recover and their welfare is likely to be compromised. Your veterinarian will discuss this with you and explain why they think this is necessary if this is the only option.

Dog anesthesia with veterinary treatment
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Aftercare for Dogs Hit by a Car

If you have been allowed to take your dog home for monitoring following an accident you will need to keep a close eye on them over the next few days. If your dog shows any signs of lethargy or weakness, you should contact your veterinarian again to get your dog re-examined. Other signs such as pale gums, panting or a fast heart rate can also be indicators of a problem such as delayed shock or internal bleeding.

You will also need to ensure that you give any medications recommended by the vet and attend any follow-up appointments. These may seem unnecessary if your dog appears to be well, but they can be a perfect opportunity for your vet to pick up minor injuries missed at the original exam, such as broken teeth or torn nails.

Most dogs do make a full recovery following a car accident, but if you have any concerns with your pet’s progress then you should contact your veterinarian again.

Can dogs survive being hit by a car?

You might be wondering what the dog hit by car survival rate is. Obviously, it varies hugely depending on the injuries sustained, but this study in the UK found that about 1 in 5 dogs died as a result of being hit by a car. Dogs are more likely to survive if appropriate treatment is sought quickly. The advice is to take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible following a car accident even if they seem fine. Dogs can deteriorate gradually if they have hidden internal injuries, so it’s best to try and detect these as soon as possible to ensure that any treatment can be given quickly.

Boston terrier dog with injury
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Preventing accidents from happening

Many dogs survive an incident unscathed, but others aren’t so lucky. To avoid accidents happening in the first place make sure you keep your dog on a leash- or under control- at all times, and especially near roads and traffic. Even a well-trained dog can suddenly get scared and bolt or decide to run across a road after another animal, so don’t take the risk and keep them close by. Take great care when using extendable leashes near roads, as the catch can give way and allow your dog to run into the road. If your dog is difficult to manage on the leash or near traffic, then it is worth considering obedience training to improve their behavior.

It is also important to make sure the fencing in your yard is in good order as dogs that escape can accidentally get hit by a car when straying from home. Damage to fencing can occur following storms or high winds, so keep an eye on your property to make sure that it remains secure and that your dog can’t get out.

Take great care when reversing your vehicle on your driveway. Many pets are accidentally run over by their owners when not seen, so check carefully before backing out of your property or returning home from work.

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Conclusion

Seeing your pet involved in an accident can be quite an upsetting experience but being prepared so you know what to do if your dog gets hit by a car is paramount. If you follow the above steps, act calmly, and follow the advice from your veterinarian then you will give your dog the best chance of recovery.


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