Tips for Transporting an Injured Dog

Find out how to properly transport an injured dog to a veterinarian or emergency animal clinic.

Marcia King

Perhaps one of the scariest things dog owners are ever called on to do is transport our injured dog to the veterinarian or emergency animal hospital. What should you do to avoid hurting or further injuring a dog in pain? And what precautions should you take to avoid hurting yourself?

1. Call your veterinarian or emergency animal clinic first and describe your dog's injury and cause, if known. They may want you to apply certain first-aid techniques prior to or during transport, for example, washing a wound with water or applying pressure to stop blood flow. Knowing that a wounded animal is on the way also expedites the check-in process.

2. If possible, ask a neighbor or someone nearby to drive. It's best if the distracted dog owner is not the one behind the wheel.

3. Even the gentlest dog may bite if he's scared or if you hurt him while moving him, so protect yourself by doing the following:

  • Muzzle your dog. You can lightly tie a necktie, stocking, gauze roll bandage, scarf, etc. around your dog's mouth before you move him, unless your dog is exhibiting respiratory problems or is unconscious. "Once the dog gets settled or any time the dog is not being observed, remove the muzzle," urges James K. Roush, DVM, Dipl ACVS, and Professor and Section Head of Small Animal Surgery at Kansas State University. If your dog gets sick and vomits, not being able to open his mouth wide enough to vomit could have serious or fatal consequences.
  • Have someone hold your dog's head to prevent him from turning and biting you.
  • Gently lay a small pillow, towel, or blanket between your dog's mouth and your hand until you are done moving the dog, suggests Darryl Millis, DVM, Dipl ACVS, Professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Chief of Surgery at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

4. Staunch uncontrolled bleeding (more than 5 minutes) by applying pressure to the site with a clean, padded bandage or gauze square to minimize blood loss.

5. If a limb is broken below the knee or elbow, wrap a bath towel around the leg and secure it loosely with tape in order to help reduce painful movement. When moving the injured dog, gently support the bone on either side of the fracture so that the broken bone does not bend awkwardly. In general, don't attempt to splint it, says Millis. "Excessive manipulation of the fracture could be painful and result in an owner becoming bitten."

6. If bones are exposed, don't try pushing the bones back in place, Millis warns. Instead, place a clean towel or sterile gauze over the open wound and/or broken ends and then immobilize as described above.

7. If the dog appears to have only a broken limb and is small enough to carry, Millis says you can usually pick him up by putting one arm under the chest, the other under the abdomen, then lifting him up. "Be careful about the head and neck – you don’t want to get bitten."

8. Alternatively, transport your dog in a crate or size-appropriate box.

9. To transport large or heavy dogs, gently slide a sturdy board beneath the dog, suggests Millis. You can use a table leaf, bookshelf, plank, ironing board, cutting board, or the tray from his crate. "Keep your dog from jumping or falling off the board, by using a padded strap or towel tied around the body and board," advises Roush. If a tray or board isn't available, use a towel or blanket to serve as a stretcher or as a sling.

10. Take special care if your dog is immobile, can't walk on his hind limbs, or is wobbly on his hind limbs, as he may have a pelvic or spinal injury, says Roush. Excess movement could exacerbate the injury. Use a board or tray, as described above, to minimize movement.

Marcia King is a DOG FANCY contributing editor who lives in Ohio.

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