First Aid for Dogs – Serious Injury or Car Accident

A car accident for a dog can result in very serious injuries and sometimes be fatal.  Often there will be obvious signs of trauma but sometimes there will be internal injuries that may not be obvious, particularly if you didn’t see the accident. Serious injuries also requiring first aid for dogs can arise from a dog fight, or a fight with another animal.  If you can determine a car accident has occurred or suspect a car accident or other incident resulting in serious injury, your first aid response is primarily to minimise any further injury and get the dog to a vet or emergency care as soon as you can.

If you encounter a situation where a dog has been or may have been hit by a car or run over, has just been in a fight or is seriously injured in some other way, these are the things you need to do:

  • STAY CALM. Ensure YOU and OTHERS (especially children, who may act unpredictably) are safe! Don’t suddenly jump out of your car into oncoming traffic, swerve your car off the road or do anything that puts you or others in danger. Seconds make very little difference to the outcome for the pet, so the best thing you can do is move carefully and slowly and look around you to ensure everyone is safe.
  • BE WARY of the pet. It is important to know that pets who are in pain may be unpredictable and in some instances, an ordinarily lovely pet, may bite out of fear. If the pet is snarling/growling/snapping then do not attempt to move it. In this situation you should absolutely call your local vet and get them to come to you! Your next port of call if your vet is closed or there is no local vet is to call your local council. If it is after hours they will have an afterhours number for a ranger.


  • ASSESS & APPROACH if it is deemed safe to do so. Ideally crouch near the pet and see if it will come to you. If there are obvious bleeding wounds, apply pressure to stop bleeding if the pet will allow. See below for more info on bleeding. If you have a blanket, wrap the pet to keep them warm.
  • MOVE the patient if it is safe to do so, as carefully as possible, directly to a vehicle that can take the pet to the vet. Try to stabilise the patient as much as possible when lifting them so they are not struggling or moving around too much. When lifting the pet, bend from the knees, and have the their chest and waist resting resting on your forearms with their legs facing away. You will likely need assistance with larger dogs over around 20kg. If possible, have someone supporting the animal’s head and neck to avoid any further spinal injury.
  • Proceed to your VET. Ideally, do not be the one to drive if it is your own animal that is injured. Your attention will be split and you will be more likely to have an accident yourself. Call the VET on the way so they can prepare for your arrival and give you any useful advise on the phone.
How to support a dog while lifting in the event of an accident or injury
Dr Abbie demonstrating how the correct lift for a dog that been involved in an accident or injured.


A side note on fighting dogs: If you encounter dogs that are fighting with each other, follow the steps below:

  • Stay calm and ensure the safety of those around you. Do not jump in and grab the dog around the collar, as they may reflexively whip around and bite you.
  • Try to provide a loud distraction, such as clapping your hands or banging things together.
  • If this still doesn’t work, see if you can place an item between the dogs such as a chair or anything that disrupts their vision of each other
  • If this doesn’t work, and you feel it is safe to manually separate the dogs, grab the dog from the top of the hind legs and pick this area up high to create a wheelbarrow effect. It should be noted however that it can be dangerous to separate fighting dogs by any mechanism.

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Dr Abbie Tipler, BVSc, MACVS (Surgery) Tipler, BVSc, MACVS (Surgery)

Dr Abbie is a Small Animal Veterinarian with 10 years full-time experience. Her passion is Small Animal Surgery and in 2011 she studied towards and obtained her Memberships in Small Animal Surgery from the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists. Although surgery is her special interest, she loves all aspects of General Practice, especially canine medicine. She lives with her family and two Ragdoll cats.