My Dog Was Hit by a Car—So What Happens Next?

Updated on January 7, 2018
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a small animal veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.

What happens next?
What happens next? | Source

What's going to happen when you take your dog to the veterinary clinic? She has just been hit by a car, is acting oddly, and one of her back legs looks odd. What happens next?

You need to stay calm both for your sake and for your dog´s. Being hit by a massive hunk of metal is hard. Dogs hit by a car often die before they even make it to their ride, or die before they reach the veterinary hospital, so if your dog is still alive after being hit by a car, and is able to make it to the clinic alive, there is a good chance she will make it.

Stay calm!

When you arrive at the clinic you might be told to wait up front, although in a smaller clinic you might even need to help. Your dog will be evaluated. Even though it may look serious, a broken bone is not the greatest threat to your dog and not what your veterinarian is most worried about.

He needs to prevent your dog going into shock. When she goes into shock most of the fluid in her body moves from the vessels to the tissue; the drop in blood flow means that she no longer has adequate oxygen moving to her brain nor adequate fluid pumping into her vital organs.

Teach your dog to avoid walking in the road.
Teach your dog to avoid walking in the road. | Source

What Are the Symptoms of Internal Bleeding and Shock?

Your vet will lift up the lip of your dog and check the capillary refill time. That is the amount of time it takes for the blood to rush back into the tissue after it has been depressed for about a second. Normally the color will return in a second or less.

The lungs will also be auscultated (listened to with a stethoscope) at this time to check for sounds of trauma and fluid.

If your dog is showing any symptoms of shock or internal bleeding she will be catheterized (usually in the front leg) and fluids will be pumped into her rapidly-sometimes with the aid of a pump, sometimes the vet or an assistant will grab the bag and squeeze it to make the fluids go in as quickly as possible.

She will also be given an injection that will help many of her fluids return to the vessels. The fluids will stabilize her and there will be time to diagnose the other injuries. She may need x-rays to check her lungs for injuries, x-rays of the long bones she has injured to check for fractures, or maybe blood work to make sure her red blood cell level is stabilizing.

After your dog is stabilized with fluids and all diagnostics are finished, she can be put in a cage with a heating pad and perhaps with warm bags of fluid packed around her.

Provide your dog with a comfortable area to rest when she comes home after surgery.
Provide your dog with a comfortable area to rest when she comes home after surgery. | Source

What About Surgery?

If your dog has serious soft tissue damage, like a degloving wound (where the skin is peeled off and the flesh is exposed) it will be fixed as soon as she is no longer in danger of going in to shock.

A broken leg will not be fixed until your dog is totally stable. If it is a simple fracture she may be able to get by with a cast. More serious fractures may require a pin, a plate, or even an external fixation device.

Do not be surprised if she is referred to a specialist for these procedures. Remember that the fracture is not an emergency, and if it is not repaired properly she may lose her leg, or the ability to walk.

Can I take her home soon?

She can be taken home after surgery. The vet will give you instructions on how quiet you must keep her.

It is a good idea to make sure that you have a comfortable area for her to stay quiet when you get home. She will probably need a warm bed to sleep in but do not use a heating pad. If she is still very sore she may not roll over and may end up burning her skin.

How Can I Avoid This Happening Again?

I have read a few amazing stories, like from the Hidden Life of Dogs, about some dogs that are able to avoid ever being hit by a car. Don’t count on it. I am a great fan of walking my dog off leash but I have her trained to come next to me if there is a motorcycle or a car coming. I have also worked with her so that she will go “down” on command (in case a car is coming and she is too far away to sit next to me). If you cannot guarantee your dog will listen to you every time, you should not risk her health by walking her anywhere you are not in control. If you do not have a safe place to walk her without a leash, keep her on a leash every time you go out.

A leash is the only guarantee that your dog will never be hit by a car.

It is not just the expense you need to worry about. Next time the outcome of a big car and a little dog might have more tragic consequences.

Take care of your dog, so that she can take care of you!

© 2012 Dr Mark


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      Shannon 5 weeks ago

      A Leash is NOT a guarantee that your dog will never be hit by a car. Someone hit our dog today while my son was taking her for a walk around the block in broad daylight. She was on a short leash and it was a residential, gated, community and they were on the curb. My son was only 1 foot away from being hit himself because "the sun was reflecting" in her eyes and she couldn't see. Yes, a leash greatly reduced the risk, but it isn't not a guarantee.

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      Aquamarine 4 months ago

      My dog just got hit by a car and it's too late to take her to a vet hospital cause they are closed. Am really scared and don't know what to do.she has blood all over her mouth that makes me think she has internal bleeding. I have tried to keep her warm .Am even too scared to see her now.I don't want to lose hope but I can't even help it.I really want her to get well again.

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      ganu 5 months ago

      I am so worried that my most favourite dog has been hit with a bike i feel so bad

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      Can't express my name 6 months ago

      My favorite dog got hit by a car yesterday and my mom just have up she said a broken back can't be fixed so she shot her now I just sit and cry for hours on end I miss my dog so much I still see her now laying on the road not moving anything but her head

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      Kay 8 months ago

      My little yorkie mix just got hit by a car on her hind legs, she seems calm and breathing well, I tried feeding and giving her water in the mean time but going to take her to a vet later on today. What else should I do?

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      Dr Mark 11 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Tim, a lot of people are not able to handle a big dog in a wheelchair, which is why they are usually only sold for Doxies, Min Pins, etc. You have a lot of work ahead of you, but thanks for leaving that great message and letting us know that it is all about staying positive!!!!

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      Tim 11 months ago

      Hi Loring,

      I stumbled upon this site because my buddy was hit by a car a few days ago. He's a 9 year old lab/ German shepard mix. He has fractures in both hips and canot move his tail or walk. A specialist has recommended pins in both hips but the cost is more than I can afford. I brought him home the day after the accident, and he's getting better. He ate a little that night, but didn't eat again for two days. I finally got him to eat last night, but hat to open his mouth and spoon it in, then he'd swallow with no problem. I made overcooked, very soft rice with chicken breast, threw it in a mini food processor, and mixed it with warm beef broth. He's remained in pretty good spirits so far.

      I quickly learned how to express his bladder, and he seems to be pooping on his own, but I'm not quite sure if that's the case yet. Cleaning up after him has not been a big deal.

      My vet wants me to stay realistic, and keep the option of putting him down because his quality of life might suffer. I'll be damned if I do that, though. He may recover enough to walk with a limp or on three legs, or maybe not. I watched a bunch of Youtube videos of handicapped & paralyzed dogs, and I've realized that the quality of life a handicapped dog has is determined by the owner's efforts. I've already started pricing doggy wheel chairs, and I bought a yard wagon for him. I'm a teacher, and one of my coworkers told be to get him certified as a service dog and bring him to work with me, and I'm absolutely on board with that.

      My point is...don't give up hope on your pal just yet. Stay positive!

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      Loring 11 months ago

      My yellow lab was hit by a car a couple days ago. The emergency vet took xrays and an 'expert' read them and said one hip was fractured and she needed surgery. Also lung bruising and internal fluid and bleeding that apparently stopped.

      Went to our regular vet who said in a 7 y/o lab you see stuff on xrays that may not actually be fractures. To be honest, it had to be magnified for me to even see what the first vet was pointing out. Our vet is more concerned with her spine. Pricked her back legs with no reaction. Gave her a steroidal anti inflammatory, antibiotic for organ trauma, and continued Tramadol for pain.

      Since then, she has tried to move, scooting sort-of, using her back legs rather clumsily and weakly, both turning out or under, but she puts a little weight on them.

      She ate the day after her accident, but the next day and today she is not interested. She does drink a lot of water and pee, but not defecate.

      I just don't know what to think. I see sites that talk about therapy for dogs to recover from paralysis. We don't want to give up too soon, but we don't want her to suffer. We do not have thousands to spend on her care, but we are willing to at least investigate what might work. We are thinking of trying water therapy in a warm pool, but we are not experienced at all with this sort of thing.

      What would you advise? We don't want to push her too hard too soon, nor give up too soon if we don't see improvement. We know she had major trauma from the accident, but she never stopped wagging her tail for us.


      Bella's mom

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      Lisa 17 months ago

      Hi Dr. Mark ! I just want to also say re: being on leash is not guarantee that I had my Lab on leash and he actually snapped his leather collar to run across the street and got hit by a car which was traveling around 30 mph. He, amazingly, did not have any apparent injuries and that was 6 months ago, although now he is limping and was put on a supplement for stiff joints. Needless to say, even if I am just crossing the street to get to off leash woods, he is on a harness !

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      Wes T 21 months ago

      My dog was clipped by a slow moving car today a few minor cosmetic scrapes on her chest and what appears to be a twisted swollen foot she ran away following the blow and two hours later came back home with blood coming from her ear canal she is responsive but wants to rest ive been waking her up periodicly out of consern of concussion she drinks water but eats very little shes not her rambunctious self i guess shes just bit shooken up or in shock im 99% sure shes fine but im worried about the blood and fluid coming from her ear it has slowed down a whole lot almost to none i dont think its a brain injury that maybe her eardrum hopefully rest will help.

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      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hi Jacqui hopefully he is home by now. They probably had to x-ray the lungs to evaluate the damage. I hope everything is okay with your little Yorkie.

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      Jacqui 2 years ago

      Hi my 3 year-old yorkie just escaped from the house and has been hit by a car. He is on way to the emergency vets as although he us running about like a mad thing he is coughing up muscus like red blood. I have been left at home but am worried can anyone help please.

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      Becky 4 years ago

      Thanks for providing this information. My 5 year old dog was hit 3 days ago. He is still alive but it looks like he may be paralyzed in his back legs. Reading your advice has helped to calm my fears. I am hoping that his behavior is due to shock and not a sign that he won't make it. Our vet has been wonderful but he is not giving any information about Charlie's future.

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      Barb 4 years ago

      My 7 year old dog was hit by a car today after escaping out the front door. She was bleeding profusely from both ears just like a faucet running, but she still lived for about 20 minutes. I know there was nothing we could do, but the whole thing was made worse by the fact the guy never braked or swerved or even stopped. I feel terrible as we rescued her from a shelter several years ago to give her a better life. She was a loyal companion. I feel so horrible and feel like we let our little friend down.

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      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      Excellent advice. Sauturday evening before Christmas two years ago while taking one puppy for training the other decided he needed to climb up on the crate. (5 month old Border Collie) He caught his right fore paw on the top and snapped both bones when he fell. I was impressed with how calm my hospital corpsman son splinted the pup's leg and carried him on the ride to the vet. We left one son home with the other pup. My son offered to sell his car to pay for Joe's surgery. I wish he had. The thing only gave him trouble after that. Joe still has screws in his leg, but they don't bother him. I have been teaching the guy to stop and look for cars and heel when we cross the street. At 3 he and his brother are finally getting the hint that they are smart and like being well trained.

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      Sasha Kim 5 years ago

      I've had one dog hit when I was young and hope it never happens again. She was lucky to be small and only suffer a minor leg injury. This hub is very useful and voted as such!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I truly hope you never need this info!!!

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      hisandhers 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      Having one of my dogs being hit by a car is one of my biggest fears. Even when every precaution is taken, accidents can still sometimes happen. After reading this hub I feel like if it ever did happen, I would feel a lot more calm and lot more prepared. Thanks for all the great advice!

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      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Personally I would never own a retractable leash. Even if they do not fail they teach a dog bad walking habits.

      I want to discuss putting on a quick muzzle, so that there is no risk of getting bit, but thought I would try to write a separate hub about that. But as far as strapping down an injured dog? Do you think anyone would even remember that kind of advice at the time of an emergency?

      Thanks for coming by. Stay away from those ear mites, even if they are not zoonotic!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Good, helpful hub, DrMark. Would you agree that folks need to resist the temptation to scoop their injured dog into their arms? I should think they could complicate the injuries, or maybe suffer a serious bite because the dog is so traumatized.

      Sometimes even being on leash is no guarantee of safety, though. A neighbor had a retractable leash (a cheap one she bought at a big box store), one that extended 26 feet. When her dog was 26 feet away from her, the leash failed. The dog returned to her and there were no problems, but had he been in the street, there could have been. I told her she should have bought one from my store...they don't fail! :) Regards, Bob