Car Accident? What to Do if Your Dog Is Injured
After a car accident or similar trauma, a dog may be in a state of shock. It will be frightened and possibly injured. A dog's first instinct will be to run and hide. It will not understand that you are trying to help and may become aggressive, even to people it knows. Despite the difficulty, it is important that you restrain the pet and put a dog muzzle on it so it can be safely taken to a veterinarian.
Start by talking softly to the dog. Approach it slowly. Do not make any sudden movements. Stop your approach when you are about a foot away from the dog. Extend your closed hand, knuckles upward. If there is no aggression, pet the dog with your closed hand. If the animal struggles, talk softly for another minute and try again.
Before administering first aid, it is important that you muzzle the dog. Even a gentle dog, if frightened, can take a bite out of your arm. In an emergency, a muzzle can be made from a piece of gauze, a strip of sheet, your necktie or even a sock. With one end of the cloth in each hand, lay it across the dog's nose, as close to the eyes as possible. Wrap the cloth completely around the nose and tie firmly beneath the jaw. Pull the ends back on each side of the dog's neck and make a tie behind the neck.
Once the dog is secured, check to see if it is breathing normally, control any bleeding, check for fractures and treat for shock. (Scroll to end of text for information for first aid information on artificial respiration bleeding, broken bones and shock.)
SUPPLEMENTARY FIRST AID:
Artificial Respiration (when breathing stops)
Electric shock, choking, smoke inhalation or drowning can all cause a dog to stop breathing. Signs of respiratory suppression include blue or pale colored gums, labored breathing, a staring expression and unconsciousness with dilated pupils. If the problem is caused by something other than an obstruction in the air passages and the dog is not breathing or has very shallow breathing, perform artificial respiration.
An unconscious dog may become aggressive when it revives. Apply a muzzle -- always. You can use a strip of gauze, a strip of sheet, a necktie or even a sock. Wrap the cloth around the snout and tie under the jaw. Pull the ends back on each side of the dog's neck and tie behind the head. If the dog starts to vomit, remove the muzzle and reapply when he is finished.
How to perform artificial respiration:
- Lay the dog on its side. If there is no back or neck injury, pull the head and neck forward.
- Open the dog's mouth and pull the tongue forward so it does not block the throat. Clear any debris with your fingers and close the dog's mouth. Recheck the pulse.
- Hold the dog's mouth and lips closed. Apply the muzzle.
- Inhale and put your mouth over the dog's nose forming an airtight seal. Exhale.
- Remove your mouth and allow the dog's chest to deflate.
- Repeat the process 10 to 15 times per minute.
- If color of gums improves and the dog starts to fight the procedure, breathing is improving.
To control external bleeding, put a clean piece of sterile gauze over the wound and apply firm pressure. If the blood soaks through the gauze, do not remove it. You could dislodge a forming blood clot. Instead, place another piece of gauze on top of the soaked gauze and continue to apply pressure. If the bleeding still does not stop and the wound is on an extremity, try using pressure on the arteries that supply blood the bleeding area.
Pressure points for these arteries can be found on the inside of the upper front leg and back leg as well as the underside of the base of the tail. Pressure on these areas will reduce blood flow to the wound.
If the bleeding still does not stop you may need to apply a tourniquet -- but only as a last resort. A tourniquet should never be applied around the neck or over a fracture or a joint. It should never be left in place for longer than 10 minutes. Once the tourniquet is in place, take the dog to vet immediately. If the tourniquet must remain in place for longer than 10 minutes, release it for one minute then re-tighten.
Apply a tourniquet as follows:
- Wrap a strip of cloth, a belt or bandage strip between the wound and the body, about two inches from the wound. Never use a string or rope, as it will cut the underlying skin.
- Tie a knot in the material and put a strong stick in the loop of the knot. Tie another knot on top of the knot holding the stick.
- Twist slowly until the bleeding slows. Secure the stick by tying or taping.
- The tourniquet should be released and then re-tightened every 10 minutes to allow for some circulation.
- Cover the wound lightly with a piece of clean cloth or gauze.
- Transport the dog to the veterinarian immediately.
Internal bleeding is harder to detect and may be suspected if the dog is bleeding from the mouth or anus, vomits blood, has bloody stools, is in a coma or in shock. Make sure the dog's breathing passages are clear, any broken bones are immobilized and the dog is warm. Transport to the veterinarian immediately.
Prompt immobilization of a fractured bone will prevent a simple break from becoming a compound fracture (where the bone breaks through the skin) or a complicated fracture (damages internal organs). In most situations, broken bones are not life threatening unless they cause bleeding, interfere with breathing (broken ribs), or are crushing a vital organ.
Spotting a broken bone is not always easy. A dog with a broken leg may not use the affected leg and there may be swelling around the break site. The dog may hold the leg at an unusual angle or show movement in an area of the leg that should not be mobile. If a break is suspected, do not manipulate. Transport the dog to the veterinarian in the least traumatic manner possible. If the dog is small, hold the dog so the broken limb will hang free.
Although your main aim is to get the dog to the vet as soon as possible, immobilization of the break with a splint can prevent complications. Gently restrain the dog and apply a muzzle. Do not attempt to reset the bone. Any straight, firm object can suffice as an emergency splint as long as it extends past the injured joint, immobilizing the joints above and below the injury. Tape or tie the splint into place so that it is secure, but not so tight that it cuts off circulation.
A back injury must be handled with extreme care. Transport the dog to the vet with the least movement possible. Do not bend the dog's back. Place it on a firm, large board or place it in a box that is large enough so it can lie flat. Skull injuries should be handled in the same manner.
Shock, which is actually the collapse of the circulatory system, occurs when an animal has sustained a traumatic injury -- blood loss, electric shock, poisoning, burns or other serious accident. If not treated promptly shock may progress to death. Symptoms of shock include the following:
- Body feels cool to the touch.
- Pulse is weak and rapid.
- Breathing is shallow and rapid.
- Gums are pale or muddy.
Shock requires immediate veterinary attention. To administer first aid make sure the dog's air passages are clear. Help the dog maintain body heat by covering it with a coat or blanket. If the dog is unconscious, keep the dog's head lower than its body. Massage the legs and body muscles to encourage blood flow. If possible, phone the veterinary hospital to let them know the problem and that you are on your way. Transport the dog with as little movement as possible.