My Dog Got Hit By a Car
Dealing With a Dog Owner’s Worst Nightmare
By Vesna Smedberg, RVT
One of the worst scenarios for any dog owner is having your pet get hit by a car. Even if it doesn’t happen to yours, you can be prepared to properly assist the animal in need.
1. Get the Dog in a Safe Place
First, think safety. Make sure you and the dog aren’t further injured by traffic. Be aware that the animal may bite so use caution. If you have a towel or blanket, you can use it as a sling or gurney if another person is present. Try to move the animal as little as possible so as not to exacerbate possible injuries. Once you’re away from traffic, immediately check for the dog’s vital signs.
If there is no breathing or heartbeat, be prepared to begin CPR. You can take a pet first aid and CPR course through the American Red Cross. Keep performing CPR until the staff at the animal hospital can take over. In an ideal situation, another person would call the veterinarian and let her know what happened and when to expect you.
2. Prepare a Muzzle
If the dog is conscious, he may react to the pain and try to bite while you’re helping him. You can create a makeshift muzzle out of a rope, leash or T-shirt. Apply the muzzle before lifting the dog into the car, but don’t leave it on as it could obstruct breathing or vomiting.
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3. Visit the Veterinarian
The dog may ignore or hide the pain as a result of instinct or adrenalin production. He could even run around and act fine. However, you still need to take him to the veterinarian for an exam. Every hit-by-a-car incident should be considered an emergency. Resulting injuries can include skin abrasions, broken bones (which may or may not be clearly visible) and life-threatening internal injuries.
4. What to Expect at the Vet
The veterinarian will perform a physical exam, do blood work, take X-rays and perform an ultrasound to assess the extent of the injuries. Once the assessment is done, the treatment plan will be discussed with you.
In case of a shock, IV fluids and medication will be administered. In case of broken limbs, a splint or a cast may be applied, but more complicated fractures can require orthopedic surgery. If there is an indication of internal damage, the dog will have to have emergency surgery. The cost of the treatment will need to be covered at the time of the visit so make sure to bring some form of payment.
5. Reduce the Risk
Unfortunately, in spite of everyone’s efforts, the outcome can be fatal. Every situation is not predictable or preventable, but by always having your pet on a leash and proper gates around the house, you can reduce the risk tremendously. Most car accidents happen to dogs who managed to get out and run away. Also, make sure your dog is microchipped and registered. That way, you’re notified as soon as your dog is brought into the hospital.
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