What to Do if Your Pet is Hit by a Car

By: Dr. Kasandra Garner

It’s every pet family’s nightmare: Fluffy rushes into the road and is hit by a car. What you do in the next few moments may increase your pet’s chance for survival, and also protect you from becoming injured as well.

First and foremost, make sure it is safe for you to go to your pet. Never run into a street without first checking for traffic. If there are bystanders, have them flag down drivers and safely stop traffic BEFORE you attempt to get to your pet.

Remember that a pet in pain may lash out; even gentle pets that have never been aggressive may bite you, so be careful. If your pet is small, cover your pet with a thick jacket or blanket before attempting to move him or her off the road. A larger dog may require being muzzled. Items such as belts, leashes, scarves, shoe laces, socks, or strips of a t-shirt can be used as a makeshift muzzle. However, if your dog is showing signs of difficulty breathing, do not apply a muzzle. Instead, use a thick blanket or jacket to cover his head, and keep your face away from his mouth while you attempt to move him out of the road.

If your dog is too big to carry, you may need to use a blanket or piece of cardboard or whatever is handy as a stretcher. The key is to try to get your pet safely to your car so he or she can be transported to a vet with as little “jostling” as possible. If your dog can walk but is unsteady, or has an injured limb, use a blanket, towel or jacket as a sling to help him move towards your car.

Once you have safely moved your pet out of the road and into your car, call Animal Hospital of North Asheville at 828-253-3393, REACH at 828-665-4399, or the nearest veterinary hospital to alert them of your situation and your estimated arrival time. Any specific information you can give them such as obvious sites of injury, amount of bleeding, and your pet’s level of consciousness can help the staff know what to have ready. They can also help you get your pet from the car into the hospital safely.

Not all pets that are “bumped” by vehicles have obvious injuries. If your dog or cat is hit by a car but has no obvious signs of external injuries, you should still bring him or her to the vet to be assessed for internal injuries. Bruising can take hours to appear, and internal bleeding signs can be subtle at first. Even if your dog appears “fine” after being struck, check her gum color and pupil size. Pale or greyish gum color can be an indication of internal bleeding. If her pupils are unequal in size she may have head trauma. A rapid heartbeat and low body temperature can indicate shock.

As with any emergency situation, the most important thing is to stay calm and focus on what you need to do to keep yourself safe so that you can help your pet.