Pet Education

If Your Pet is Hit by a Car, Don’t Let Their Resilience Fool You.

Pet Hit By Car-KEY

By Peggy McMahon, DVM
Diplomate American College of Veterinary Emergency + Critical Care

Animals are resilient. Sometimes they suffer from trauma as severe as being hit by a car but they can still walk, or run, away from the event and appear unscathed.

However, there may be internal injuries or emerging problems that you cannot see from the outside. Overt injuries like fractured bones and wounds are usually not the most life-threatening problems.

My pet was hit. What do I do?

It is important that you take your pet to a veterinarian right away. Delay can lead to life threatening problems and it is best to present animals to the hospital before they are in crisis. Please inform the staff at the animal hospital that your pet was hit by a car or you believe your pet may have been hit by a car. The veterinarian will start with vitals and a physical examination to assess for injuries. The next steps will likely be blood panels and imaging to assess for internal injuries. A veterinarian may perform a brief ultrasound to look for evidence of hemorrhage or organ rupture and/or take X-rays to help get an idea of what is going on in the chest and abdomen. A veterinarian may recommend blood work to assess for blood loss and organ damage.

What types of injuries can occur?

Trauma can affect any part of the body, including but not limited to the brain, lungs, heart, liver, gallbladder, kidneys, bladder, intestines, spinal cord, skin, musculoskeletal, reproductive, and coagulation systems.

Car Accident: X-Ray

The chest X-ray above shows accumulation of air around the lungs, causing them to be unable to expand fully and leading to severe compromise in breathing. This condition is called pneumothorax. This dog had no external injures and seemed fine for several hours after being hit by a car. He was presented to the hospital in severe respiratory distress and nearly lost his life. Prompt and careful monitoring by a veterinarian is recommended for at least 24 hours after an animal is hit by a car.

My pet has injuries. Will she make it?

Your veterinarian may recommend hospitalization to carefully monitor for signs of current or emerging injury such as blood loss, heart arrhythmias, respiratory problems, neurologic disorders, abnormal blood levels and others. It can take up to 48 hours for serious signs to present, and planning for your pet to have at least an overnight stay in the hospital for intensive monitoring and intervention may be indicated. Treatments include oxygen, pain medication, IV fluid therapy, antibiotics, other medications, and sometimes surgical procedures. Prognosis will depend on the types of injuries present, but many dogs and cats that suffer from vehicular trauma do well with treatment and go on to lead full and happy lives.


The best prevention is to keep you pets on a leash at all times in unfenced areas. Well behaved dogs with predictable behaviors that have never run away while being off leash can suddenly do so without warning. It only takes one time of running in to the street for the unthinkable to happen.

Animal Specialty Group

DVM, Diplomate American College of Veterinary Emergency + Critical Care

After receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree with honors from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 2011, Dr. McMahon migrated to Los Angeles where she completed both a Small Animal rotating internship as well as a Small Animal Emergency and Critical Care residency at Animal Specialty and Emergency Center. Shortly after joining Animal Specialty Group’s Emergency Team in 2016, she became board certified in veterinary emergency and critical care.