What to do if your pet has been hit by a car or attached by another animal
Any pet involved in a motor vehicle accident or attacked by another animal should be assumed to be in shock. They may also have suffered internal injuries, head trauma and have severe bruising. There can be active bleeding on the outside of your pet, but the real danger is the internal bleeding that cannot be seen. Trauma can result in injuries to various internal organs. For example:
- Punctured lung: air and blood can leak into the space between the lungs and the rib cage causing difficulty breathing because the lungs cannot expand
- Bruised lung: bleeding into a traumatised lung (pulmonary contusions) can stop that part of the lung from being able to absorb oxygen
- Ruptured liver or spleen: damage to these highly vascular organs can lead to excessive bleeding into the abdomen. This is known as a haemabdomen and sometimes surgery is required to repair the damage
- Ruptured diaphragm: The diaphragm is the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. If ruptured, organs such as the stomach or the liver can be pushed into the chest making it difficult for your pet to breathe
- Ruptured bladder: If urine enters the abdominal cavity (uroabdomen) your pets’ body cannot excrete toxins and wastes leading to severe dehydration, shock and toxicity. Surgical repair is required
- Head trauma: Brain damage can occur and the long-term complications are only identified once your pet has become stabilized
- Fractures: Limb and pelvic fractures are extremely painful and can cause excessive blood loss
- Puncture wounds: Imagine that bite wounds from animals are like an iceberg. The outside puncture is like the tip of the iceberg and may seem small. However the trauma underneath these wounds can be massive (and may “sink your boat” if left unattended). These wounds often require surgical exploration, washing out (lavage) and antibiotics
Trauma can cause life threatening shock and injuries, seek veterinary attention immediately.
Symptoms of trauma
Pale gum, or blue/purple colour
Fast heart rate
Bleeding on the outside
Non-responsive to commands
Signs of pain (whimpering, crying, shivering, hiding)
Emergency Treatment for trauma
If your pet is unconscious, check if they are breathing and that they have a heartbeat. If not, perform CPR.
In order to minimize movement that can cause more damage and pain, place your pet in a cage, crate, washing basket or on a board.
Stop active bleeding by placing a clean cloth over any open wounds and applying firm pressure
What to expect at the vet
- Intravenous fluid therapy – this is needed if your pet is in shock
- Oxygen therapy
- Pain relief – traumatic injuries are painful and need to be managed immediately
- IV medications – to treat shock, to prevent further damage to organs and to treat potential infections
- Radiographs (x-rays) – to assess extent of injuries
- Blood transfusion may be required if blood loss is severe.
- Surgery may be needed to clean wounds, repair ruptured abdominal organs and to stabilise fractures.
- Traumatic injuries are often more extensive than they may first appear, and for this reason you should always seek veterinary attention even if your pet initially appears normal. Many puncture wounds, especially from animal bites, will require antibiotics and the sooner these are started, the better. Patients that have suffered severe injuries and are in shock may need extended hospitalisation for treatment and recovery. With appropriate and timely treatment, most traumatic injuries can be managed with a successful outcome.