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What is Vehicular Trauma?

If your dog is hit by a car, bring him to a veterinary care professional right away but be careful moving him. Try to place him on a sturdy surface such as wood or cardboard to keep his body still so you do not cause more injury. He may have a spinal injury so it is important to keep his back and neck as still as possible. If your dog does not seem injured and he gets up and walks away, it is still a good idea to take him to a veterinarian. Dogs can have internal damage and bleeding that may cause no outward symptoms until it is really serious, and by then it may be too late for successful treatment.

Vehicular trauma in dogs is common in dogs who are allowed to run outdoors unattended. For indoor dogs, the risk is low, but even when you keep your dog inside, accidents can happen. Your pet can get out the door, escape his enclosure when let outside, or get away from you while you are walking him. Vehicular trauma is an injury sustained when your dog is hit by a moving vehicle. This may be a truck, car, motorcycle, train, or even a snow plow. The injuries sustained may be minor or life-threatening, depending on the case. Some of the types of injuries you will see in vehicular trauma are broken bones, head injury, internal bleeding, strained muscles, and abdominal or chest injuries.

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Symptoms of Vehicular Trauma in Dogs

The symptoms of vehicular trauma depend on which part of the body is injured in the accident. Some of the most common signs of vehicular trauma include:

  • Limping
  • Whining or yelping when touched or when walking
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Bruising
  • Facial or head injury
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bleeding from anywhere on the body
  • Shock (pale skin, weak pulse, rapid breathing, cold extremities)


  • External injuries include cuts, bruises, scratches, and bleeding anywhere on the body. You should continue to monitor your dog carefully and watch for signs of shock or swelling of the abdomen, which may be a sign of internal bleeding.
  • Internal injuries are the most serious because you cannot see them and they may go unnoticed until they become really serious. Broken bones are the most common injury in vehicular trauma, followed by head/brain injury, internal bleeding, pneumothorax, fluid in the lungs, and shock.

Causes of Vehicular Trauma in Dogs

The cause of vehicular trauma is being hit by a vehicle of any kind. The risk increases with those dogs who are allowed to roam outdoors unattended. Injuries ranging from mild to severe can occur, with broken bones being the most often seen result of impact. The risk of internal injury must not be ignored when collision with a vehicle occurs.

Diagnosis of Vehicular Trauma in Dogs

The veterinarian will first perform a thorough and detailed physical examination, checking the neck and spine first to look for any sign of fractures or damage to the spine. The examination will include palpation and auscultation of all main organs and muscles with special attention to the abdomen and head, looking for signs of internal injury and broken bones. Your dog’s airway will be examined, probably with an endoscope, which is a lighted flexible tube.

To determine if your dog has any internal injuries, the best thing is to get radiographs (x-rays), CT scan, and ultrasound, and possibly an MRI, if needed. Blood tests will be done to check for internal bleeding and shock. A packed cell volume, blood urea nitrogen, and blood glucose are all standard tests for emergency situations such as vehicular trauma.

Treatment of Vehicular Trauma in Dogs

The treatment for vehicular trauma depends on the type and area of the injury.

Broken Bones

Broken bones will be stabilized and then a cast or splint will be applied. This may also include surgery in some cases to place screws, pins, or plates for stabilization and treat internal bleeding which sometimes accompanies broken bones.

Lacerations (cuts)

Most lacerations can be cleaned and treated immediately with pressure and a bandage. Deep or serious lacerations may include stitches, which requires sedation.

Internal Bleeding

Any kind of internal bleeding will require surgery to determine the cause and perform the repair. Intravenous fluids and blood transfusions are also needed.

Pulmonary Damage

In some cases, your veterinarian may need to repair a collapsed lung or drain fluid from around the heart. Any kind of thoracic trauma may require surgical repair and hospitalization.

Abdominal Trauma

If your dog has a laceration or hernia in the abdomen, surgery to repair the damage is usually needed right away. This includes any damage to the liver or spleen.

Recovery of Vehicular Trauma in Dogs

The prognosis of vehicular trauma depends on the severity of the injury and how soon you are able to get treatment for your dog. If you get immediate veterinary care, the chances are good that your dog will be fine. Continue to monitor him for abnormal behavior or appetite and call your veterinary care provider if you have any questions or concerns.

Vehicular Trauma Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

16 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

doesnt walk
cannot urinate
Sore leg

Medication Used

Co-Amixoclav MEGACLAV

Bricks was purposely ran over by a car as he played outside with the kids and their dogs. According to the kids, Bricks went under the car. Took him to the vet who did an Xray of his legs which showed no broken bones. Its been two days after the accident and I have tried to help him by icing his poor leg, massaging it to allow blood to flow through. He was prescribed antibiotics and anti-inflammation med. He has managed to defecate in the two days but has not yet urinated. He also cannot walk yet but wondering at one point should I worry about his inactivity? He can stand for a while and he limps when he tries to walk. He shivers between pauses as well but putting this down to shock?

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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
11 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms


In the evening my father let our two dogs out the front door. My little dog Lucy was run over with someones back tire. My dad sales dog medicine and called a close vet friend to meet at the clinic in our small town that night because she was not likely to make it. Lucy had a low blood count and broken pelvic plate. The vet did something he had ever done before and put pins in her pelvic plate to connect her legs so it would heal correctly. Six weeks later we took her home, she acts differently now and sometimes struggles to get around. She also struggled to keep her hind feet from dragging because of nerve damage. I just wonder if she is completely traumatized from her accident and does she think about it?

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2 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Cant Move Legs

Obi was hit by a car and he screams when his lower hip and back area is moved, he will lay on his sides but we have to move him carefully or he is screaming!!!! He has gotten up on his own several times and tried to walk but screams until I calm him down and lay him back down

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Wolf Breed
9 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Continuous Crying, Not walking well

I was with my dad in the car and he was backing up in our driveway and we accidentally hit our dog Nikki while she was laying down. We ran over to her and she was helping really loud and limping, we took her to the vet and she was given medication but ever since she was been crying a lot and doesn’t walk that much (only going to the bathroom) is there any other way to get her treated fine and not go through pain?? -DC

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13 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Severe pain, continuous whining

my dog was crossing the road when a motorcyclist was not paying attention and my dog didn't get ran over but hit on the side. she was walking after just fine running and jumping. but this morning she was shaking and crying.the vets are closed right now, will she be able to make it till tomorrow

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3319 Recommendations
If Daisy is showing symptoms of pain, you should visit an Emergency Veterinarian to examine her and to give some pain relief since it isn’t good to leave her like this; don’t try to give anything at home for pain like aspirin since this thins the blood and may cause a bleed if there are internal injuries. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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pit bull terrier
11 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

hump in spine

My dog was hit by car about month ago and he couldn’t use his back legs for a few weeks. Vet took X-ray and said no broken bones or anything. He can walk & run now & plays with my other dog but still wobbly in legs and has hump now in his spine. Could you possibly help me with any ideas what might be wrong? Thank you

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3319 Recommendations
If there is a small hump on the spine, it may be that Zeus has a subluxation of the spine which may cause some instability leading to him being a little bit wobbly; I would give Zeus rest so no running around and consult with a Veterinary Chiropractor about the possibility of an adjustment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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