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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Unfortunately animals are frequently involved in road traffic accidents. If the accident is not immediately fatal a variety of injuries can result including broken limb bones, head injuries, spinal injuries and "internal injuries". Veterinary attention should be sought as soon as possible following an accident - even if the animal appears to be ok.

The most obvious signs of trauma are broken limb bones or wounds with external hemorrhage - but the most serious injuries often fall under the general heading of "internal injuries". Many of these are potentially fatal, including :

  • Internal hemorrhage - eg bleeding into the lung, into the abdomen from a ruptured spleen or liver, or into the brain or spinal column
  • Major organ damage - eg liver, kidneys, intestine, lungs, heart
  • Ruptured urinary bladder
  • Ruptured diaphragm - the diaphragm separates the chest from the abdominal cavity and when it is ruptured abdominal contents pass forward into the chest reducing lung function
  • Pneumothorax - a condition in which air enters the chest cavity causing lung collapse

Small animals such as cats and dogs are often thrown clear of a vehicle travelling at speed, and the extent of their injuries may not be obvious. Some internal injuries may cause signs immediately - for example the animal may cough up blood that has hemorrhaged into the lungs, but other forms of internal injury may not be obvious for several days - for example a ruptured urinary bladder may not be recognised until it is evident that the animal has not passed urine for several days following an accident.

Many internal injuries require emergency treatment (including surgery) and delay can lead to serious irreversible complications, so early diagnosis and intervention is important.

If an animal is to make a full recovery from its injuries following a road accident it is important to have a veterinarian perform an examination of the patient as soon as possible following the accident. Treatment for shock and other injuries within the first 30 minutes following major trauma can make all the difference between life and death, or between the animal being able to lead a normal life or one with permanent disability.


Updated October 2013