Cars, Trucks and Dogs: The Dangers You Don’t Think About

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. His website is He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (

Chris Longenecker, a Certified Veterinary Technician in Reading, PA, contributed to this article.

The hit-by-car dog
We typically think the greatest danger posed by a car is that it may hit your dog. Certainly, family practices and emergency clinics are filled with cats and dogs who have been injured after being hit by a car. It's so common that veterinarians use an abbreviation for this type of injury: HBC (Hit By Car). There are several variations on that theme: getting hit by a truck, train, mail truck, bus, snowplow, ATV, forklift — veterinarians have seen it all.

The safest ways to keep this from happening are to have a secure fence, lock any doors and gates and walk with a leash.

[Note: Retractable leashes can present a danger of their own; they give pet owners and dogs a false sense of security. A dog could still run across the street and get hit by a car while on a retractable leash. Click here to learn more about safe leashes.]

Dogs in the driveway
Another type of injury frequently occurs when a dog gets crushed when the owner backs up out of the garage. How could it happen? Sometimes, dogs like to rest on the warm cement, behind or under a car. As drivers back up from their parking spaces, they may not realize that sleeping dogs are in imminent danger.  

Such terrible accidents are not limited to dogs and are part of the reason why some cars come equipped with a backup camera. It’s a wonderful device, but remember that it shows you what is behind your car – not under it.

[Editor’s Note: Always know where your pets are when you leave the house.]

An unrestrained, traveling dog
Especially in the warmer states, dogs are often injured when jumping from the bed of a truck. This can lead to broken bones, if the truck isn’t moving, or much worse injuries if it is moving.

Injuries are also likely when a dog jumps from the car window, weather the car is moving or not. Some pet owners open the window for their dogs, whereas some dogs might open the window by pushing on the button by accident. Either way, I cringe every time I see a dog with his head out of a car window.

Even if your dog doesn't jump, he can develop eye problems like conjunctivitis from the wind and flying debris.

The best way to protect your dog from these dangers is to secure him. Click here to learn more about dog restraints. Dogs should never be allowed on your lap or left to wander in the car. They, or their carrier, should be secured with a seatbelt. Otherwise, they can become flying objects during an accident, which can hurt them and other passengers.

Dogs in cars during the summer
An often overlooked danger during the summer is heat stroke. Even when the outside temperature is not that high, a car acts as a greenhouse and heats up quickly. Click here to see how quickly. Heatstroke can cause problems to virtually every organ in the body and potentially cause death.

Dogs in cars during the winter
During the winter, leaving your dog in a cold car can lead to hypothermia (low body temperature).

All of these risks should be taken very seriously. Your dog may have never jumped out of the window or maybe you’ve backed out of your driveway for years with no harm. Sadly, it only takes one time. It also only takes a second to look before you pull out of the garage.

Dogs are part of our family. Many readers love to take their dogs for rides and many dogs enjoy it just as much. As long as your dog is safe, there's no reason why your favorite furry friend cannot join you on the next road trip.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.