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Trauma/Automobile Injury in Dogs

By: Dr. Ann Marie Manning

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Treatment In-depth

Treatments for trauma/automobile injury may include the following:

  • Hospitalization of several days duration may be necessary to treat traumatic injuries; however, if your pet does not have external injuries and radiographs appear normal, he/she may be released after the examination. Despite a normal physical examination, your veterinarian may recommend one night of hospitalization for observation in the event of late developing problems.

  • Intravenous fluids are administered to treat or prevent shock.

  • Supplemental oxygen is given to animals in shock and to those with injuries such as pneumothorax, pulmonary contusions, head trauma, and blood loss.

  • Animals with head trauma may receive drugs to reduce brain swelling after they have been treated for shock. These drugs may include mannitol. Anticonvulsants such as diazepam or phenobarbital are used to control seizures.

  • Pain medication such as butorphanol, buprenorphine, fentanyl or oxymorphone is administered to animals with fractures and muscle bruising. Additional pain relief may be provided with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as deracoxib, aspirin, carprofen or Etogesic®. Anti-inflammatory drugs may be contraindicated in some animals so check with your veterinarian before giving any medications to your pet.

  • Antibiotics are given to animals with skin wounds, lacerations and open fractures (the fractured bone punctured through the skin to the outside).

  • Anti-arrhythmic drugs such as lidocaine or procainamide are administered intravenously or orally to control an abnormal heart rhythm that may result from trauma. The arrhythmias are usually transient (last less than 3 to 4 days) and animals are rarely discharged on heart medication.

  • If your pet experiences serious blood loss, your veterinarian will administer a blood transfusion or give a blood substitute (e.g., Oxyglobin®). A wrap may be applied to the animal's abdomen to limit bleeding into the abdominal cavity.

  • Thoracocentesis. During this procedure, a needle is place into the animal's chest to withdraw air or blood that is restricting his/her ability to breathe. If thoracocentesis is not sufficient to deal with the volume of air or fluid, a chest tube may be inserted for several days.

    Surgery may be necessary for some injuries; however, it is usually delayed until the patient has been stabilized. Types of wounds/problems that may require surgery include:

  • Skin wounds and lacerations.

  • Fractures involving the legs or back. Occasionally a leg fracture may heal with application of a cast. Fractures of the pelvis that do not involve weight-bearing surfaces may heal with 4 to 6 weeks of cage rest.

  • Bleeding. If your pet experiences internal bleeding that cannot be controlled with blood transfusions and other medical support, your veterinarian may need to do an abdominal exploratory to locate and stop the source of bleeding.

  • Urinary tract trauma. Surgery is required if any part of the urinary system (kidney, ureter, bladder, urethra) is disrupted and is causing leakage of urine into the abdomen.

  • Any wound that appears to penetrate the chest or abdominal cavity must be explored to prevent pyothorax (pus in the chest) or peritonitis (infection in the abdominal cavity) from developing.

  • Hernias (diaphragmatic or body wall) must be repaired surgically. Surgery is delayed for the first 24 hours to allow stabilization of the dog's condition.


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