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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. The risk is proven to be higher in those who have not been neutered. 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)

Types

  • 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.
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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 frequent result of impact. The risk of internal injury must not be ignored when collision with a vehicle occurs.

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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. 

To determine if your dog has any internal injuries, the best thing is to get radiographs (x-rays), CT scan, and ultrasound or 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.

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Treatment of Vehicular Trauma in Dogs

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

Many patients will need intravenous fluids, pain relief and anti-inflammatories. Any superficial cuts will be cleaned and may need to be dressed.

Broken Bones

Broken bones will be stabilized and then a cast or splint will be applied if needed. Treatment may also include surgery in some cases to place screws, pins, or plates for stabilization. 

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 major internal bleeding will require surgery to determine the cause and perform a repair. Intravenous fluids and blood transfusions are also commonly 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. Lung contusions require supportive care as they resolve.

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, or a hernia.

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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.

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Vehicular Trauma Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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american pit

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10 Years

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Unknown severity

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14 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

My dog got hit by a car she didn't get ran over by tire but the car was so low I believe she got drug a little she has what looks like a burn on her stomach ..but she can walk and she pees and poos ..but she is in pain and I can't afford a vet ..how do I know if she has internal damage and what kind of pain killer can I give her

Feb. 1, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Maureen M. DVM

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14 Recommendations

Hi, That may be an abrasion on her belly. The pain may be due to soft tissue injuries (muscles). With internal injuries imaging techniques such as CT Scans, X rays can give a conclusive diagnosis which I think is important especially in cases where internal bleeding is suspect. With internal bleeding, most dogs become anemic, lethargic, lose appetite, and are dull. If not treated on time they go into shock and chances are high it may lead to death. As for pain, anti-inflammatories such as prednisolone, meloxicam, carprofen are ideal. I would advise you to take her to the vet for a check-up just to make sure everything is okay. Good luck

Feb. 1, 2021

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dog-breed-icon

mixed breed

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Eleven Months

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Unknown severity

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9 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Hello my dog was clipped by a car last Thursday. She was taken to the vet a few hours after it happened. She was given an X-ray and had three fractures to her pelvis. Was given doggie ibuprofen and antibiotics. She was peeing blood the day she was hit. It stopped for a few days and in the last day or two she’s started peeing fresh blood again.

Dec. 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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9 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. This peeing blood can still be trauma to the bladder. If this is bright red blood, it would be best for a vet to look at her again. Sometimes damage cannot be seen for days after the accident. I would continue giving her pain medication and antibiotics as this will help her heal.

Dec. 24, 2020

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