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

Updated on May 28, 2019
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!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

  • Is it normal for my dog to potty in the house after severe head trauma?

    It depends on the head trauma, of course. If the dog suffered so many injuries that he is incontinent, then yes, it is normal.

    It is more likely that the dog is suffering from psychological problems secondary to the trauma. It is up to you to take him out to the yard, spend some time with him, and get him used to the outside again. If you do not take the time to work with him now, while the trauma is relatively recent, this will become an ingrained habit and will be difficult to stop.

  • My dog was dead in the middle of the road; we can only assume he was hit by a car, but has no apparent physical injuries. He was left with our other two dogs in the front yard by themselves for two minutes. No one stopped. He looked perfect. What could he have died from?

    A dog can die from internal injuries and have no outward signs of damage. A few years ago, a delivery truck (carrying bricks and steel) ran over one of my dogs when she had crawled underneath to get in the shade. There were no visible signs of injuries, but she died in about 30 seconds, so there must have been severe crushing and torn arteries.

  • We found our dog in the street unable to walk properly. His back legs look hurt, but there is no swelling. There is no blood and only a few scrape marks. Could it be internal bleeding or a broken bone?

    The severity of your dogs problems cannot be diagnosed without an exam. You need to take him to your vet; you stated that there is no swelling and no blood but the leg seems hurt. In what way? If there is a broken bone there will almost always be swelling. There will only be obvious bleeding with an abrasion or a laceration.

  • Can a three-month-old puppy survive getting hit by a car?

    It depends on the speed of the car, the part of the body that was hit, etc. Yes, a three-month-old puppy can survive sometimes. At times, however, a puppy or dog of any age is going to die if hit by a car.

  • Is it normal for my dog to not want to go outside after being hit by a car?

    There can be a lot of psychological damage. My dog was hit by a motorcycle while walking on the beach and she was nervous and always tried to avoid that area during our walks.

© 2012 Dr Mark


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    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      12 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Crystal, I cannot tell if your dog is "seeping" from an infection or has bleeding from something that needs to be closed. You need to call and take him back to the vet you have already taken him to.

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      My dog wasn't hit by a car he was attacked by another dog he has been to the vet and he has started to bleed really bad under one of his arms and he has meds for pain and infection. So what can I do now to help with the bleeding

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      13 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Charlotte, the only thing I can suggest (and hopefully you are aldeady doing it) is to massage your dogs leg gently while performing very slow passive range of motion exercises (bring the leg up to the body, pull it out all of the way, move the knee around, flex the paw, etc). If you do not extend and flex the leg at every joint the tendons will contract and your dog will not use it even if there are no obvious medical problems.

    • profile image

      Charlotte Leonard 

      13 months ago

      my dog was hit by a car and has had surgery to repair her fractured hip. the problem though now is she won't walk (it has only been 4 days) and her left leg is asleep. they have told me they are concerned but she too has lots of inflammation and within a week we will consider therapy. my question is do you or others have suggestions on what might could be done to awaken the leg?

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      17 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      As I mentioned in the question section above, it is not unusual for a dog to be nervous after such a traumatic event. All you can do is take it very gradually. When you are ready to go for a walk take a bag of special treats, like tiny chunks of chicken livers, and give her a lot of praise for each little step.(Stand your front door and when she comes out give her praise and a treat. Do the same thing to the end of her sidewalk, to the next house, to the end of the block, etc.)

      It may take some time so do not get upset with her. If she will not go any further, sit down and play with her a while, distract her, and she may forget about her nervousness and go a little further.

    • profile image

      Mariesia From New Jersey 

      17 months ago

      My 4 year old dog was hit by a pickup truck on Sunday. She ran out the front door while my daughter was leaving. She is fine. A few scraps on her head but she will not go on any walks. If we try to take her for a walk she will go a few feet then turn around and run to the back yard. She has loads of energy and we have a small back yard. We would take her on walk to burn off some energy. What can we do to help her not be so scared of going on walks again?

    • profile image

      Nicky from FLORIDA 

      18 months ago


      My daughter took our little dog for a walk on his leash and a car came around the corner and hit our dog he died on the spot my daughter was only 1 foot away from him and they kept driving like nothing happened it's sad how do these things he was my daughter first pet Thank for all the great advice it help

    • profile image


      21 months 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.

    • profile image


      2 years 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.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Can't express my name 

      2 years 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

    • profile image


      2 years 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?

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      2 years 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!!!!

    • profile image


      2 years 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!

    • profile image


      2 years 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

    • profile image


      3 years 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 !

    • profile image

      Wes T 

      3 years 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.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      3 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.

    • profile image


      3 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.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Hi my little shih tzu was hit buy a car his back legs where degloves thank god he did not have any fractures or organ damages but the deglove in one leg is really bad any advice and how take care of it and how long will take?

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      A dog should be on a leash if it is not in a fenced in location. This protects the dog and the general public. Many dog owners let their dogs run free, even though most towns and cites have rules against it. The reason dog owners feel comfortable is they have a loving relationship with their dog and couldn't imagine it attacking another human being unprovoked. However, a loose dog can and will attack people who it thinks are a threat , even if those people are a mail carrier, delivery person, utility worker, or a pedestrian walking on a neighborhood sidewalk. Today, I was nearly attacked by a loose dog. I was walking to a neighborhood park this Sunday morning, when a dog came from a front yard and started barking at me. I immediately checked the traffic (on a major arterial road) and crossed to the other side of the street, thinking the dog would be satiated that I backed off from its "territory". I continued walking and listened to my music, when I heard a loud thud along with a loud crying bark from a dog. Unbeknownst to me, the dog had continued pursuing me across the street when it was hit by a car. When I turned around to look, the dog was in the middle of the street whimpering. In painstaking fashion, it got up and struggled back to the sidewalk, where it lied down and continued whimpering or whining in pain. A couple that lived nearby came out of the house and said that the owner always lets the dog out in the morning. Again, I do not think it is a wise thing to do and likely illegal thing to do in a city, for dogs to be let out. It is unsafe for people and dogs for dogs to be running loose in the city.

    • profile image


      6 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.

    • profile image


      6 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.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      7 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.

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 

      7 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 imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      7 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

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

    • hisandhers profile image


      7 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!

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      7 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!

    • profile image

      Bob Bamberg 

      7 years ago

      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


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