Golden Retriever in a car

Always take your dog to a vet if it's been in a car accident.

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What to do if your dog is in a car accident

By Dr Jo de Klerk, BVetMed (Hons) MScTAH MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

If your dog is in a car accident, it can be very serious. However, there are plenty of ways to keep this from ever happening, as you'll find out in this article.

Car accidents can happen in an instant. It only takes a few seconds to turn your back and your dog to run into the road to be hit by a vehicle. Car accidents can be devastating for all that are involved and can cause potentially fatal injuries. They are most common in dogs who are walked off the lead or whose recall still needs to be established.

All dogs who are involved in road traffic accidents, regardless of their level of injury, should always be assessed by a veterinarian immediately.

What to do if your dog has been hit by a car

If your dog has been hit by a car, try not to outwardly show signs of panic, as this will stress your dog further. Injuries from a car accident are not always obvious and internal injuries are often the most serious. As a result, you should immediately take your dog to your nearest veterinarian for an examination, to determine if there are any major injuries, such as fractured bones, internal bleeding, punctured lungs or organ damage.

My dog was hit by a car and has internal bleeding

A heavy blow to the body of your dog can cause internal bleeding, which can be life-threatening. Most internal bleeding occurs in either the abdominal or chest cavity, and your veterinarian will be able to assess these areas for pooling of blood. Symptoms of internal bleeding include lethargy and white gums.

How long will it take my dog to recover from a car accident?

The length of time it will take for recovery, and the prognosis, will largely be determined by the severity of the car accident. A dog who has come away relatively unscathed, with only cuts and bruises, will recover within a week or two. However, a dog with internal injuries may take several months to recover, and may end up with chronic lasting ailments.

What to watch out for if your dog is hit by a car

If your dog has been hit by a car, and a veterinarian has already examined him and determined he can recover at home, then there are still symptoms that should be watched out for to ensure he doesn’t deteriorate. These include lethargy, excessive pain, difficulty breathing, pale gums, bleeding and infections developing in any cuts.

My dog was hit by car and seems fine

It is easy to assume that a dog that has been hit by a car is fine, especially if there are no outward symptoms. However, internal bleeding, organ damage, fractured ribs and punctured lungs can all easily go unnoticed. Therefore, regardless of whether or not your dog seems fine, it is important that a veterinarian examines your dog.

My dog was hit by a car and is limping

Limping is a common symptom after a car accident. The force of a car can easily fracture bones. Even if your dog has managed to survive an accident without any fractures, he will still be badly bruised and possibly cut. As a minimum, pain relief will be required from your veterinarian and he or she may need to perform x-rays to check for fractured bones.

Can a dog survive a car accident?

Car accidents can be fatal; however, many dogs will survive them, and may even come off relatively unscathed. The severity of injuries from car accidents can vary hugely.

How do you treat a dog after being hit by a car?

After a car accident, all dogs will need pain relief from a veterinarian, as even a small accident will cause bruising and pain. Other treatment will vary depending on the injuries, and this will be determined by your veterinarian. Some dogs will require intensive care and potentially surgical procedures to treat the injuries, whereas others may be able to be nursed back to health at home with minimal medication.

What should you do if you hit a dog with your car?

If you hit a dog with your car, and the owner is not around, you should immediately try to catch the dog and take him to your nearest veterinarian. Remember he will be scared and in pain, and therefore might bite. The veterinarian will perform emergency treatment to keep him comfortable while they try to trace his owner by checking for a microchip.

How do I keep my dog safe in a car crash?

If your dog is inside a car in a car crash, he is likely to suffer similar injuries to others in the car or worse. Many dogs are not strapped in when riding in the car, and this could have serious consequences. You can keep your dog safe in a car crash by ensuring he is strapped in with a dog harness, and not loose.

Is it cruel to crate a dog while at work?

If you have trained your dog to stay in a crate, he may find it comforting to spend time in it while you are away. Crates are not cruel if a dog has been appropriately crate-trained. This will keep him safe and prevent him from causing trouble. It will also become his area of safety and comfort. However, a dog should not be left alone in a crate for more than a couple of hours, as he will not be able to relieve himself nor have access to food or water. Therefore, if you work all day, it is cruel to crate your dog for that entire time.

Is it safe to put your dog in the boot?

For many people it is convenient to travel with a dog by putting him in the boot of the car. However, it’s important to stop and consider whether it is safe to do so. A loose dog in the boot of the car, with no restraint or guard, can certainly be dangerous, as he can jump over onto the seats to try to ride up front, or be thrown around in a car accident. As a minimum, a guard between the boot and the back seats should be put up. For smaller dogs, a transport carrier crate will help keep him more confined and secure. However, the best option to keep your dog safe is to secure him with a harness. Purpose-designed car safety harnesses can usually be secured to a fixture in the boot and this will keep your dog safe during a car accident.

Where should a dog sit in the car?

A dog should either sit in the boot or on the back seat of the car, secured so that he cannot reach the driver of the car. This is really important, as if the driver is distracted in anyway, it may result in a car accident.

Can a dog sit on a passenger's lap?

A small dog can sit on a passenger’s lap on the back seats, only if it is secured by a car safety harness into the seatbelt as well. Some dogs find car journeys worrying, and so sitting on a passenter's lap may ease the journey for everyone. However, a dog should never be on the lap of a passenger in the front seat, nor on a lap unrestrained.

Is it illegal to have a dog loose in a car?

It is not illegal to have a dog loose in the car. However, it can be seen as irresponsible. If the dog jumped into the front and resulted in the driver crashing the car, the driver could be held responsible for the consequences of the crash.

Do dogs like car rides?

Some dogs love car rides, while others hate them. How your dog reacts to car rides is a result of two things: any positive or negative associations with a car ride as a puppy, and whether your dog gets car sick. If you train your dog from a young age to associate car rides with walks and fun trips, then he is likely to grow up to love them. However, if the only time he ever goes in the car is for a journey to the vets or kennels, then he will have a negative association with them and feel anxious. Car sickness also plays a role, and nausea also creates a negative association with a journey.

How do you travel with a dog in a car?

The two most important things when considering how to travel with a dog in the car are how to keep your dog safe and how to prevent your dog from distracting the driver. A dog should always be in the boot or on the back seat, not next to the driver, and ideally secured with a safety harness that attaches to the seatbelt or fixture in the car. This will prevent him from jumping on the driver or moving around in the car, and also will protect him in the event of a crash. Small dogs can also travel in a small travel crate to keep them safe.

How do you travel with a puppy in the car?

A puppy should travel in a car in the same way an adult dog should travel in the car. He should be secured with a harness that is attached to the seatbelt or fixtures in the boot, and he should travel either on the back seat or in the boot. If he is too small for a harness, a small travel crate is also suitable. Puppies may not be used to travelling in the car yet, so initial journeys should be kept short and positive. It is also a good idea to not travel with your puppy straight after a meal, as this may make him nauseous and create a negative association with travelling.

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