Nowadays, more and more people are taking their dogs with them out on the road. And since the proliferation of smartphones has resulted in the rise of car accidents, your likelihood of experiencing this harrowing incident is higher than ever.
As such, it’s important to make sure your dog is safe and secure by installing a dog guard in your car. And, of course, it pays to know the basic knowledge of what to do if you happen to get in a car accident with your furbaby. From injury identification to applying first-aid to your pet, this article will help you push through one of the most traumatic events that a pet owner can experience.
1. Identify First, Act Second
If you’re in a car accident, you’ll likely find yourself dazed and confused. Get your bearings first before attending to your pet. Once your presence of mind is stable, quickly identify any injuries that your dog has sustained. Don’t move your pet as it can aggravate an existing injury.
Instead, check for obvious wounds and fractures. If you don’t find any, try to encourage your dog to stand up to see if the animal is limping or if it can’t stand at all. If it can’t stand or walk, there may be a fracture so moving it carefully should be your first priority.
If the dog is small, carry it with the suspected limb dangling to avoid aggravating the fracture. For big dogs, try to find a blanket, place them on top, and drag them to the side of the road as gently as you can. Keep in mind that a dog that can’t walk might have a broken spine, so keep an extra eye on that one too.
2. Secure Safety
Once you’re out of the street, create a makeshift muzzle. An injured animal – even if it has known you for years – will bite you if you come close to it as it’s in a state of pain and panic.
You can fashion a makeshift muzzle out of a leash, a strip of cloth, a scarf, or a belt. Do not use a rope or a piece of string as it may cut the skin and prevent blood circulation. Once the muzzle is applied, proceed to the next step.
3. Provide First-Aid
If your dog is bleeding, find a gauze or a clean strip of cloth and apply it to the affected area. When the bleeding continues, don’t remove the cloth as you may dislodge a forming blood clot. Instead, apply another strip on top of the first one while keeping the pressure down.
If that doesn’t help, apply the pressure on the arteries supplying blood to the area. These areas are located on the inside of the front and back legs, as well as the underside of the tail.
As a last resort, use a tourniquet to cut the blood supply on the area and discourage further bleeding. Tourniquet application should only last no more than 10 minutes. If help doesn’t arrive by then or you haven’t reached the vet yet, loosen it for 1 minute then apply the pressure again.
4. Deal with Fractures Properly
Bone fractures should be immobilized immediately to prevent compound or complicated fractures. The former is when the bone breaks through the skin, while the latter is when the bone has hit an organ.
If a limb is fractured, secure it using a flint. Any thin, sturdy object will do as long as it covers more than the length of the joint, ensuring that it’s above and below the fracture.
Back injuries are far more complicated and dangerous. Try to find a large, flat board that the dog can lie onto and prevent as much movement as possible. The same goes for skull injuries. Head to the vet immediately.
5. Know If Your Dog is in Shock
A dog can go into a state of shock if it suffers tremendous blood loss, which may result in death. Refer to step two to prevent this from occurring.
To identify if a dog is indeed in shock, examine the gum’s colorization. Pink or pale gums means your dog is most likely in shock and needs to be transported to the vet as soon as possible.
Other symptoms include:
- Cool temperature
- Shallow, rapid pulse
- Shallow, rapid breathing
6. Provide Ample Information to Your Vet
If you’re headed to the nearest vet, make sure you’re providing them with vital information about your dog’s situation. This will allow the team to prepare for your pet’s arrival and ensure that proper equipment is ready for whatever operation is deemed necessary by the veterinarian.
7. Stay Calm During the Transport
Make sure that you’re applying pressure on the injured area and keep watch on the tourniquet’s timer. If your pet is conscious, do not show panic in your voice, body language, and facial expression.
There have been several studies concluding that dogs can pick up on the emotions their owners are showing, whether through actions or vocal tone. One study in the journal “Behavioural Processes” concluded that dogs can release the stress hormone cortisol if it identifies that its owner is in distress.
Since an injured dog needs to be calm and collected, it’s best not to aggravate their injuries by releasing cortisol and further stressing the animal. Calm your dog by petting them or playing music. This can relieve your stress, too.
8. Check for Invisible Injuries
If the dog isn’t showing obvious signs of an injury – limping, whining, panting, restlessness – do not assume that it isn’t hurt. Dogs are resilient creatures and have a high pain tolerance, except for breeds that are considered “wimpy.”
If you’ve been in a car accident with your pet, it’s always best to have it checked by a vet to ensure they it isn’t in pain. Pain is a stressor that can be hazardous to a dog’s health over time.
When pain is present, the dog’s body will release cortisol that can affect a myriad of systems including, but not limited to, metabolism, heart, thymus gland, adrenal glands, and the immune system.
As for how you can help your pet recover from the accident, ensure that its basic needs are provided. After surgery, a dog might avoid food due to the discomfort it feels, so it will be up to you to convince your pet to keep eating. Small frequent meals are the way to go to avoid vomiting.
Also, providing basic comfort like a pillow and a blanket can go a long way. And of course, spend time to help your furbaby feel safe and secure.