Helping a Dog Hit By a Car

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"My dog got hit by a car" is a sentence nobody wants to utter, but unfortunately this happens to dogs every day. In the event that your dog gets struck by a moving vehicle, or in the event that you hit a dog with your own car, read on to learn what you should do in this situation.

My Dog Was Hit by a Car: What Should I Do?

Golden retriever dog walking on a country dirt roadWhether you're the dog's parent, a bystander or the driver of the car, it's likely your first instinct will be to help the dog, but you should approach with caution. Moving an injured dog could make the injuries worse. An injured, frightened or disoriented dog might also be prone to biting even those trying to help. Follow these steps to approach and help a dog hit by a car:

  • Stay calm: While your emotions might feel out of control, especially if it's your dog who got hit, it's important not to panic. Not only will keeping a clear head make it easier for both you and those trying to help care for the dog, but dogs pick up on human emotions and look to us for cues on how to feel or react. Keeping calm will help soothe the dog and prevent them from panicking and lashing out.
  • Call the police or animal control: This is the responsibility of the driver, noted PetHelpful, who should remain at the scene until help arrives. Leaving the dog without calling for help or attempting to provide care could constitute a hit-and-run and open the driver up to animal cruelty charges. Even if the dog's parent is on site, it's generally recommended that the driver should call in and report the incident in order to cover all the bases. While on the phone, ask them what they recommend doing. While the below are meant to help you guidelines, it is best to always follow the instructions of the experts; they may recommend you take a different course of action.
  • Place a muzzle on the dog to prevent bite injuries: This should only be done if the dog isn't vomiting, cautioned the American Veterinary Medical Association, which also suggested using a stocking, towel or roll of gauze in place of a muzzle if one isn't available. Small dogs may be wrapped in a towel or blanket instead — just be careful not to wrap them too tightly and do your best not to move them more than necessary.
  • If necessary, move the dog out of the road: Only do this if it can be done without risking your own safety. Otherwise, wait for help to arrive. To move a large dog, carefully slide a board, blanket or towel underneath the animal to use as a stretcher, and slowly and gently lift the dog and carry them to the side of the road.
  • Check for identification. If the dog's parent isn't at the scene, do your best to contact them or the veterinarian listed on the dog's ID tag and let them know what happened. If no ID is available and the parent can't be found, wait for police or animal control to arrive and take over.

Once you've followed these steps, the pet's parent can decide where to take the dog for emergency veterinary care. If the parent can't be found, either the driver or a good Samaritan might decide to rush the dog to a vet. Keep in mind that by placing the dog in your vehicle, you will be effectively taking possession of them, and you may be required to pay upfront for the dog's care. While you might be able to recoup the costs from the parent if and when they're tracked down, if this is not a cost you're willing or able to cover, it's best to wait for the police and let them handle it.

Who Is Liable for Costs?

While liability laws differ from one place to the next, in most areas the dog's parent is liable for veterinary costs as well as damage to the driver's vehicle, explained The Balance. While this might not seem entirely just, the reasoning is that it's the parent's responsibility to keep their dog restrained and out of the way of traffic. The exception is whether it can be proved that the driver was either driving recklessly or hit the dog on purpose, in which case the driver might be liable for the value of the dog. Otherwise, the driver may file a claim with their auto insurance provider, which will likely look to the dog parent's home insurance liability coverage to cover the costs of the claim.

What If the Dog Appears Unhurt?

Big brown labrador with a bandaged leg sitting on a table during a visit to the veterinarianWhile it's entirely possible for a dog to have no visible injuries from a collision, it's also possible for a dog to seem fine while suffering serious internal injuries. It's best to understand that in this situation, it is necessary to let the experts (a vet) determine the condition of the dog. Even in a minor incident, the dog should be checked out by a veterinarian. Again, if the dog's parent isn't available to make a decision, it's best to wait for professional help to arrive, assess the situation and appraise the dog's condition. Below are some signs to be on the look for to help the veterinarian assess the dog's health says WagWalking:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shallow breathing
  • Black stool or diarrhea
  • Pale or blue gums
  • Whimpering
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Depression or lethargy
  • Glazed or unfocused eyes
  • Bruising or scrape wounds
  • Loss of consciousness or coma

Treating a Dog That Has Been Hit By a Car

Once you get your dog to a vet, the priority will be to stabilize your pet, explained PetHelpful. While you might be concerned that your dog's visible injuries aren't being addressed, it's necessary to prevent them from going into shock before any other treatment can be provided. The vet will also be concerned about stopping any internal bleeding, preventing a heart attack and keeping your dog from slipping into a coma. Only when your dog is stable enough to continue will non-life-threatening injuries then be assessed and treated.

Depending on the extent of your pup's injuries, your dog may need to be hospitalized and might require surgery or specialized treatment. Carrying pet insurance on your dog can help mitigate the costs involved in life-saving treatments and recovery. Once your pup is stable and all of their injuries have been treated, you'll be able to take them home. Your vet will provide you with instructions on how to care for your dog at home as well as any medications necessary to manage pain and aid healing.

Preventing Your Dog From Getting Hit

No matter how smart or well-trained your dog may be, it's not a good idea to rely on training or your dog's ability to recognize oncoming traffic to keep them safe. The only way to guarantee that your dog will stay out of the street is to keep them physically restrained, either by walking them on a leash or keeping them in a fenced area. Be sure to reinforce any weaknesses in your fence that might make it possible for your dog to escape. Obedience training can also help ensure that your dog won't dart out into the street, either yanking you along behind or tearing the leash out of your hand. Finally, it's a good idea to pay close attention to your surroundings while walking your dog; watch and listen for oncoming traffic and hold on tightly to your dog's leash.

Whether it's your dog hit by a car or you're the one who hit them, it's a traumatic experience for everyone involved. By staying calm and acting quickly but carefully to help the dog hit by a car, you'll increase their chances of survival — and you'll have peace of mind knowing you did all that you could to help.

Contributor Bio

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent, pet blogger and novelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of furbabies.

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