All Pets Veterinary Clinic


Spring and summer are the time of the year when veterinary clinics are bombarded by dogs
and cats that have been hit by a car. From mild bruises and scratches to life
threatening injuries, automobile accidents can cause a great deal of stress for animal
and owner alike. This article will discuss some of the most common injuries seen when
an animal is hit by a car.

Shock. Many animals that are hit by a car will experience some degree of shock.
This can be due blood or other fluid loss or just from the trauma itself. Animals in
shock will often be listless, have pale, dry mucus membranes, a low blood pressure, an
increased respiratory rate, an increased heart rate and a decreased body temperature.
Stabilizing the animal is critical. IV fluid therapy, steroids, and other medications
may be used.

Skin wounds. Skin wounds are probably the most common things seen when an animal
is hit by a car. Wounds can vary from mild superficial abrasions to severe gashes and
tears. Wounds that do not penetrate the skin layer will generally heal quickly and
cause few problems for the animal. They should be kept clean and monitored frequently
for signs of infection. Wounds that penetrate the skin layer and leave the deeper
muscle, tissue, or bones exposed can be more serious. Having these wounds cleaned,
debrided, and sutured by a veterinarian is often necessary for them to heal properly.

Fractures. Broken bones are very common after an animal is hit by a car. The
most commonly fractured bones are the long bones of the front and rear legs, such as
the humerus, femur, and tibia, the ribs, and the bones of the pelvis. Surgical
correction of bone fractures will depend on the location, severity, shape, and age
of the fracture. Pins, plates, wires, screws, and external fixators may be used
depending on situation. Non- surgical stabilization with a cast or splint may also
be considered. Broken bones are often very painful for an animal. Quick veterinary
care will assure the best chance for your animal to recover quickly and with the least
amount of discomfort.

Head trauma. When an animal is struck in the front end by a car, there is a
risk for head trauma. Nerve damage, skull fractures, brain and spinal cord injuries
are all possible. Animals that have been hit by a car in the front end may experience
seizures, incoordination, a head tilt, loss of normal mentation/alertness, among other
things. Severe head trauma can be life threatening.

Internal injuries. Damage to the organs contained within the chest, abdomen,
and pelvis can occur when an animal is hit by a car. Many times and animal will have
few external injuries and severe internal injuries. Some of the more common injuries
that can occur include lacerated lungs secondary to broken bones, pneumothorax or extra
air in the chest cavity, ruptured spleen and internal bleeding, and ruptured bladder
with secondary peritonitis or internal infection. All of these injuries are very serious
and extensive medical attention is often needed.

Preventing your animal from becoming hit by a car is generally the best advise.
Keeping an animal in a pen or in a fenced in yard to prevent roaming is one of the
best ways to keep you pets from getting hit. Intact male dogs are more willing to
roam, so neutering can be one way to keep them home. In the event that your pet does get
hit by a car, it is very wise for a veterinarian to examine him/her so that quick
medical attention can be given if necessary.

See injuries from actual animals that have been hit by a car:
Oral Trauma. CLICK HERE.
Lacerations and Skin Wounds. CLICK HERE
Fractures. CLICK HERE

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not
intended to take the place of your regular veterinarian. Please do not hesitate
to contact your regular veterinarian if you have questions regarding your pet.

Karen Blakeley, DVM, MPH
14 December 2002