Restrained pets are safe pets

Prevention is best way to deal with animals hit by cars

Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2005

 

  Late spring and summer are the times of the year when veterinary clinics are bombarded by dogs and cats that have been hit by cars. One of the best strategies for preventing this is the keep all dogs on leashes and cats indoors. Photo by Joseph Robertia

Late spring and summer are the times of the year when veterinary clinics are bombarded by dogs and cats that have been hit by cars. One of the best strategies for preventing this is the keep all dogs on leashes and cats indoors.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

From minor scratches and abrasions to serious, life-threatening injuries, late spring and summer are the times of the year when veterinary clinics are bombarded by dogs and cats that have been hit by vehicles.

Losing a pet in this manner can be a devastating tragedy for a pet owner, compounded by the fact that, for many, the accidents were easily avoidable.

One of the best strategies for preventing pets from being hit by cars is to keep all dogs on leashes and cats indoors.

The city of Kenai's code 3.10.020 and Soldotna's code 6.04.080 clearly state that a person who owns a dog should keep the dog restrained at all times. Outside the city limits these rules may not apply or are difficult to enforce, but are no less important to heed.

Even dogs that normally heed voice commands can be startled by any number of unpredictable situations — another person's loose dogs, a moose and calf suddenly stepping from the woods, a car backfiring — there's no way to predict how even a highly obedient dog may respond. Once frightened, the dog could run into traffic where they could be hurt or killed.

Even if not hit, a dog or cat that jumps into the street can cause accidents when drivers swerve or lock up the brakes to avoid hitting the animal.

If unfortunate enough to be the person who accidentally hits a dog or cat while driving, decency dictates going back to check on the animal's condition. Legally there's no "hit and run" penalty for pets as there is for hitting moose, bear and other state-owned big game, but whoever owns that pet would appreciate it.

Even if the dog or cat is dead, check for tags or other forms of identification that may yield information about how to contact the animal's owner.

For many people, dogs and cats are not just possessions, but part of the family. As such, it would be better to let the owner know what happened and where to find their pet, rather than leaving them wondering and searching in vain.

If your pet gets hit by a car, it's wise to bring it to a veterinarian immediately where a thorough examination can be performed and medical attention given, if necessary.

This should be done even if the animals appears unscathed since many times a dog or cat will have few external injuries but severe internal injuries. Common internal injuries include lacerated lungs, ruptured organs and internal bleeding. All of these injuries are very serious and require extensive medical attention.

Broken bones also are a common injury from a run-in with a vehicle and can be very painful for an animal. Commonly fractured bones are the long bones of the front and rear legs, the ribs and the bones of the pelvis.

Veterinary care will assure the best chance for a dog or cat to recover quickly and with minimal amounts of discomfort. The surgical method used to correct the bone fractures depends on the location, severity, shape and age of the fracture. Pins, plates, wires, screws, splints and-or castes may be used, depending on the situation.

Head trauma is always possible when a pet is hit by a car and can be life threatening. Even if not directly struck by the car itself, their head may bang against the concrete from the force of the initial impact.

Skull fractures, brain and spinal cord injuries and nerve damage all are possible. Some warning signs of head trauma include seizures, lack of coordination, holding the head tilted to one side, loss of normal mental alertness and the pupils of one or both eyes being dilated.

Dogs and cats hit by a car may also experience some degree of shock due to blood or other fluid loss or just from the trauma of the accident itself. Stabilizing an animal in this condition is critical and can require the administration of intravenous fluids, steroids or other medications.

Animals in shock may be listless with an increased respiratory and-or heart rate, decreased body temperature, and-or pale color of the gums.

Cuts, scratches and other skin wounds are perhaps the most common injuries sustained when an animal is hit by a car, but even these should be inspected by a veterinarian.

Wounds that penetrate the skin and leave the deeper muscle, tissue or bones exposed can be more serious and these wounds should be cleaned and sutured by a veterinarian so they heal properly. Superficial abrasions may heal more quickly but these injuries should be kept clean and monitored frequently for signs of infection.

When weighing the cost and benefits, even the most expensive leashes on the market are still cheaper than the cost of treating injuries sustained from being hit be a vehicle. But, many pet owners would argue, it's not about saving money; it's about knowing a dog or cat is safe and protected — and that peace of mind is invaluable.

Joseph Robertia is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. He has worked with wildlife and domestic animals for more than 10 years as a veterinary technician, a zoo keeper, and most recently as a zoologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society. He welcomes any pet-related questions or story ideas, but please none of a veterinary nature. Ideas and questions can be sent to his attention by e-mail at news@peninsulaclarion.com.



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