Helping a Dog Hit By a Car

Published by Jean Marie Bauhaus
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"My dog got hit by a car" is a sentence that 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 if you hit a dog with your own car, then there are vital actions that you need to take. Read on below to learn what you should do in this situation as well as what signs and symptoms you should look out for.

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

Dog hit by car guide
Whether you're the dog's parent, a bystander of the dog getting hit by a car 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 by a car, 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: “If the animal is a domestic pet, you must contact the owner, Police or the RSPCA. If the animal is injured you should take it immediately to the nearest animal shelter or vet.” States NSW Government, Roads and Maritime Services. As the driver this is your responsibility and you must remain at the scene of the incident. In fact, 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 as guidelines, it is best to always follow the instructions of the experts; they may recommend you take a different course of action.

  • If necessary, move the dog out of the road: It is also important to protect yourself and others around you from another possible accident states ACS Distance Education . Make sure the road is clear and safe enough to proceed to come close to the dog. Assess the situation to see if there is an option to move the dog out of the road yet 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.

  • Place a muzzle on the dog to prevent bite injuries: This should be done with caution and only if the dog is not vomiting. If a muzzle is not available then a towel, stocking, or roll of gauze may be used instead to protect the mouth and prevent a bite. Small dogs may be wrapped in a towel or blanket instead if it is safe to do so— just be careful not to wrap them too tightly and do your best not to move them more than necessary.
  • 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, then remain calm and wait for the police or animal control to arrive and take over. They will have experienced a dog getting hit by a car previously and so will be prepared for such situations.

Once you've followed these steps, the pet's parent can decide where to take the dog for emergency veterinary care, if this is needed. 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 pet 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?

Liability laws can differ from one place to the next, yet Taylor and Scott Lawers advised that “in all circumstances, pet owners or the person in charge of a pet (for example a dog walker) are responsible for the control of the pet in public places.”  Often therefore the dog's parent is liable for veterinary costs as well as damage to the driver's vehicle and 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. Yet, according to Finder if you have comprehensive car insurance you will likely be covered when hitting an animal on the road. As such, circumstances can differ across all incidents and it is best to seek help from your insurance provider, as well as talk to all parties involved in the accident.

What If the Dog Appears Unhurt?

Injured dog gets care from vets after getting hit by a carWhile 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 Knose Pet Care:

  • Signs of pain: whimpering, crying or sudden jerking movements.
  • Seizures, tremors or twitching.
  • Excess drooling or foaming at the mouth.
  • Loss of consciousness, coma or loss of balance.
  • Coughing or vomiting blood.
  • Black stool or diarrhea
  • Breathing problems and shallow breathing.

As well as

  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Pale or blue gums.
  • Depression or lethargy.
  • Glazed or unfocused eyes.
  • Bruising or scrape wounds.

Treating a Dog That Has Been Hit By a Car

The priority when arriving at the vets, will be to get your dog stabilised. 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 hospitalised and might require surgery or specialised treatment. Getting pet insurance for 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 recognise 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 and these are all good tips to take in order to prevent the possibility of your dog getting hit by a car.

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. It is vital that you stay calm and act quickly but carefully as in doing so, you'll increase the dog’s chances of survival in a serious incident— 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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