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Common Injury in Dogs: Car Accidents

By Colleen Williams
February 21, 2016 • 3 min. read
dogs and car accidents

Table of Contents

One of the most common injuries in dogs is due to collisions with cars. It’s many pet parents’ nightmare: Fido escapes from his leash and bounds for freedom, only to be hit by a car as he crosses the street. While it’s crucial to first and foremost protect your dog from car accidents, you should also know what types of injuries can result from this trauma.


Golden retrieverA dog escaping from their house and running into the road is probably the number one cause of car accidents, however many different instances can lead up to a car accident. Sometimes it’s not necessarily the pup’s (or pet parent’s) fault – drivers not paying attention or visibility issues can result in an auto accident with a pet. Additionally, deaf and blind dogs are much more susceptible if they’re free-roaming, lost, or abandoned. But most of all – it is an accident and one that can catch pet parents off guard.

“My 8-year-old golden retriever Daisy was run over in our driveway,” says pet parent Tracy. “Her injury happened when my son was backing out of the garage and she was laying down right in the door opening. We had literally been behind the car talking about a minute before he got in to leave. This is a spot she has never laid down in and it never occurred to us that she would be there.” Tracy acted quickly and got Daisy to the veterinary emergency room immediately. The accident resulted in Daisy breaking 13 of her ribs, causing blood to accumulate in her chest cavity which complicated breathing. After surgery, a blood transfusion, and seven days in the hospital, Daisy was released to go home with vet bills totaling $9,813, of which Healthy Paws reimbursed $7,158.

“I was told that her condition was extremely dire and they did not expect a good outcome,” continues Tracy. “Thankfully, she has recovered; the doctors call her the ‘miracle dog’.  She has brought so much joy to our lives and I cannot picture our family without her.”

Types of Injuries Resulting From Car Accidents

  • Muscle sprains
    This type of injury arises from less serious collisions, but your dog should still be seen by a veterinarian. Failure to do so can cause lameness and reduced mobility in the joint. Symptoms of muscle sprains include swelling, pain, and – depending on the injury’s severity – either limping or complete inability to move the limb. To diagnosis your pet’s condition, your vet will perform a physical exam and an x-ray – the symptoms of sprains are similar to those of minor fractures. Splinting the joint and prescribing anti-inflammatory medications are the most common treatments, but in some cases surgery may be necessary to repair the muscle.
  • Bone fractures
    Like Daisy, the most common injury resulting from car accidents are bone fractures. They occur when a sudden force or pressure is applied to the limb, causing the bone to crack or snap. Internal bleeding can accompany this injury when bones puncture organs or blood vessels. There are many types of fractures, but swelling, inability to move the limb, and evident pain are universal symptoms. Treatment depends on the type and location of the fracture; various splints, casts, plates, screws, and pins are all used to stabilize the bone. For more severe breaks, surgery is required, accompanied by pain medications to aid recovery.

Of course, car accidents and collisions can also be fatal. In the blink of an eye, your pet can be crushed or mortally wounded.


Unless you’re in a fenced backyard or zoned dog park, always leash your dog outside – especially when there are other dogs around or in a heavy congestion area. While lots of pet parents boast about their well-trained dogs, remember that curious canines rely on our protection and are still animals. Some may have a mischievous streak and try to play with another dog across the street or chase a squirrel, so keep your dog on a leash or safe inside when they’re out of your eyesight. During walks, put your dog on the inside of the sidewalk, away from the road. When you’re driving, pay close attention in residential areas and slow down – it’s much easier to brake quickly for a loose dog (or child) if you’re observing the speed limit.

Injuries caused by dog-car collisions can be avoided but keep in mind that accidents do happen, even to the most responsible pet parents! Being prepared to quickly get to an emergency vet can save your pet’s life.

Unexpected accident or illness? That’s what we’re here for! Many pet parents rely on pet health insurance to pay up to 90% of their vet bills, so they can focus on what really matters: getting great health care for their pet. Find out more by getting a free instant quote.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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