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Road traffic accidents: first aid for pets

Pets can be involved in road traffic accidents as well as humans. To mark Road Safety Week, Emma Hammett from First Aid for Pets gives her tips on how to care for your animal at the scene of an accident.

When approaching an accident, the most important element is your safety. Make sure that all traffic has stopped and it is flagged up that there has been an accident, otherwise there may be additional casualties. Human safety and human casualties always take priority.
Be aware of oncoming traffic to ensure that it is not posing an additional danger. Note if there is any fuel spillage or potential fire risk – turn off car ignitions if possible. Put on hazard lights and encourage other cars to do the same.

  • Stay as calm as you can
  • Stress and panic will make things worse for the injured animal.
  • Try and reassure them.
  • Keep them warm and dry.

Phone your vet or the nearest veterinary surgery.
The vet will want to know: what has happened?
is your pet is conscious or unconscious ? are they bleeding? where are they injured?
where is the animal now and do you need to move them to allow traffic to begin moving again?

The vet is likely to give you advice as to how to stabilize particular injuries and the best way to move the animal.
Consider muzzling your pet if there is a risk of you being bittenBe aware that injured animals will be scared and in pain. Dogs in pain and frightened are likely to bite, even if they know and love you, so an emergency muzzle can be made with some bandage or tape to loop over the dog’s nose before transporting or handling.

Only use a muzzle if the animal is not having breathing difficulties and is not at risk of vomiting.
Keep the injured animal warm:
Keep your dog warm by wrapping them in a blanket, coat or foil blanket
Keep the nose and mouth exposed.
Carefully transport them directly to your nearest vet.

If there is a risk of a spinal injury, you should do your best to avoid twisting your dog when transferring them to your vehicle.
A car parcel shelf or covered board can make a useful improvised stretcher.

If your dog is having trouble breathing, remove their collar, open their mouth and check for any obstructions.
If they are unconscious and breathing, place on their right hand side in the recovery position.

Cover any wounds with a clean cloth and apply gentle pressure to stop bleeding.

Do not give food or drink to an injured animal in case they need an anaesthetic.
However, if there will be a delay getting veterinary treatment and your dog is distressed and dehydrated, on veterinary advice they may be given small amounts of water.

Do not give any medication unless directed to do so by the vet.Support their head and neck and carefully roll them, ideally onto a stiff board, car parcel shelf, or blanket to transfer them into the car.

Everyone on the road should have a suitably stocked first aid kit and know how to use its contents. Most of the contents of a human first aid kit can be useful to a dog in a medical emergency. Never give any human medication to a dog without veterinary instructions to do so.

It is strongly advised that you attend a practical First Aid for Pets course or take our online course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.

Emma Hammett
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