It's one of the worst things a pet parent can imagine: finding out - or even scarier, watching - your pet be struck by a car. Every year, millions of cats and dogs are struck and killed by vehicles each year. Many millions more are involved in car incidents and in fact survive.
What you do immediately after your pet is struck by a vehicle can save their life. Here's what to know if your pet is injured but alive after being involved in a vehicle accident.
0-5 minutes in: Get Your Pet to Safety
The most pressing thing you can do for a pet struck by a vehicle is get it to safety as quickly as possible. That does not mean you should endanger your own safety to run into traffic! When it is safe for you to retrieve your pet, do so carefully - if you have something hard to act as a backboard with you, place your pet on it before moving them. If your pet is very large, a heavy blanket can be moved in a pinch as a stretcher to move them out of the roadway.
Caveat: If your pet is in a place where there is no further danger of being struck again (i.e. in your driveway), it's best to take your time moving them in order to be careful to avoid exacerbating spinal injuries.
Most importantly, stay calm. Don't forget that injured pets can and will lash out; fashion a makeshift muzzle out of a belt or towel if you need to in order to attend to your pet
5-10 minutes in: Rush to the Vet
Ideally you will move your pet directly from the site of the accident into an awaiting transport vehicle driven by someone other than yourself. Rush to the closest veterinary clinic and if possible, have someone call ahead to let their medical staff know you're on your way.
In the vehicle, do your best to immobilize your pet in case of internal injuries. If your pet is bleeding profusely, stemming the bleeding as quickly as possible is critical. Put pressure on the wound itself using a towel or other large piece of cloth (as clean as you have on-hand!) Do NOT attempt to pull any glass, shrapnel, or other objects out of your pet's wound(s); this can cause further damage if not done properly.
At this point, your primary job is to keep your pet as comfortable as possible while trying to stay calm. Speak in a soothing voice and remember to stay alert in case your pet becomes aggressive due to pain.
10 minutes - 2 hours in: Await Vet Instructions
An emergency vet clinic will know what to do next. Your pet will likely undergo a series of diagnostic imaging tests to check for internal injuries such as bone fractures, internal bleeding, or swelling. If your pet's injuries are severe, the veterinarian may immediately attempt surgery.
Some of the more common vehicle-caused injuries to pets include broken bones, internal hemorrhaging, degloving of skin, head trauma, and lung trauma. In some cases, a pet's life cannot be saved after a run-in with a car even with excellent medical care. In many instances and with proper intervention, pets involved in auto accidents can go on to live normal, healthy lives.