What to Do in An Accident with Your Pet

puppy secured in the backseat of a car

In the last decade, auto innovation has come so far in keeping us safe on the roads in the event of an accident. With all the latest safety features that are becoming more common on the roads, highway fatalities continue to be on the decline. But for all the latest and greatest safety technology, nothing takes the place of properly securing yourself with a seat belt—and that goes for your pets, too.

According to some data, 84 percent of dog owners travel without restraining their dogs—meaning that less than 20 percent of people use proper pet safety restraints when traveling.

Even if you do restrain your pets, however, accidents still happen. It’s a situation that pet owners never want to think about, but each year, thousands of pets are involved in the 6 million automobile accidents that happen on average in the United States.

Luckily, taking the proper precautions can prepare you in times of an emergency. Many pet injuries and fatalities can largely be avoided by properly restraining pets, and by knowing what to do if you find yourself in an accident with your four-legged family member. Here are our recommended steps and tips for what to do in that situation so that everyone has the best chance of walking away as unharmed as possible:

Ensure Your Safety

In the aftermath of accident, it’s important to assess the situation and your surroundings. First and foremost, this means checking that you aren’t hurt or in danger. You can’t help your pet if you yourself are injured, after all—so ensuring your safety first is critical.

Next, it’s important to check if other passengers or your pets are safe and in good hands. Because many pets are likely to flee out of fear in the event of an accident, it’s crucial to keep them in their crates or other restraining devices.

Assess the Situation

Once your pets are safely controlled, it’s important to move to safety if you’re in the middle of the road. Quickly assess if your pet has sustained any spinal injuries by checking if there’s any pain in their back or neck or loss of function in their legs.

If spinal injury seems to be a possibility, you should treat the situation as an emergency and contact a clinic immediately. Call someone who may be able to bring your pet to an emergency pet care provider. If you’re unable to locate a helping hand—or if you’re traveling far from home—it’s worth calling local clinics to see if they offer transportation services.

If your pet hasn’t sustained spinal injuries, it’s still important to check for other complications. For starters, symptoms of shock include pale or white gums, rapid breathing, or a faint heartbeat. In this situation, position your pet on his or her side while keeping their airways open, keep them warm with a blanket or other cover, and keep an eye on their breathing. If your pet is bleeding profusely, it’s important to stop it with a makeshift tourniquet. Less serious bleeding can be stopped with gauze, Band-Aids, or other soft material. In the event of a broken bone, try your best to stabilize the break and keep your pet from moving. Finally, if your pet has glass or shrapnel in their skin, it’s best to leave the removal up to a vet.

As these situations illustrate, it’s always important to keep a pet-specific first-aid kit in your car.

Call the Police

After checking your pet for any injuries, be sure to call the authorities if someone hasn’t already done so. In the event of an emergency, be sure to call 911. If it’s a less serious accident, you can resort to a non-emergency line. Regardless of the situation, you will need to wait for the authorities to arrive.

While stress levels may be high with a pet—injured or not—be sure to treat the situation like you would with any accident. If you’re injured, it’s important to undergo any on-scene treatment. While you may want to keep an eye on your pet, know that EMT, police, and other first responders are trained to keep animals safe in these situations. Finally, be sure to get the information of any other driver involved in the accident.

It’s true that accidents are always stressful situations, and if your four-legged family member is unfortunate enough to be involved, it can make things feel so much worse. We know how much our customers care about their fur babies, which is why starting February 24th, Elephant will be offering Pet Coverage to help them heal if they’re injured in an accident. Chat us online or call in to find out more about this new coverage!

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