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The Ruff Report: Don't be in the dark about this pet threat

A natural phenomenon that happens each year puts your pet at a much higher risk of injury or even death, and dogs and cats need careful guidance to deal with it, an animal welfare agency warns.

This marvel of Mother Nature that endangers the well-being of pets occurs in late autumn and winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the period when daylight becomes scarce, nights are longer and the chances of your pet being hit by a vehicle skyrocket.

During this dark period, road traffic accidents involving pets spike 8 percent, resulting in more broken bones, fractures and deaths, according to PDSA, a leading veterinary charity in Britain.

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"It's essential to keep your dog on a lead when out walking and, as much as possible, only walk them in daylight," Elaine Pendlebury, a veterinarian for PDSA, states in a media release.

The injuries that occur from road traffic accidents during winter are also far more severe - or even fatal - than at other times of the year, Dr. Pendlebury said. Pets frequently get hit by vehicles moving at higher speeds because drivers brake late since they are unable to see a pet dashing into the road until the last moment.

"During the winter, victims of road traffic accidents are one of the most common causes of trauma we see at PDSA PetAid hospitals," Dr. Pendlebury said.

Young cats, like those age 7 months to 2 years, are particularly vulnerable because they often lack "street-wise" abilities.

Because of the darkness, pet owners many times fail to realize their dog or cat has been hit by a vehicle, Dr. Pendlebury said. "Often injuries are hidden or impossible to detect without a veterinary inspection; such as bruises buried beneath layers of fur or internal injuries."

According to PDSA, indications that a pet has been involved in road traffic accident include: Pale gums and lips, which could be a sign of internal bleeding; difficulty breathing; cuts, wounds and bruises; scuffed hind claws which could indicate a dug its claws into the road when hit; and limping or inability to stand.

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PDSA recommends these precautions to reduce the risk of pets being hit by a vehicle:
  • Keep your pets in at night when possible. 
  • When walking a dog, use a non-extendable lead and well-fitted collar to make it impossible for him to run into the road. 
  • Use flourescent jackets on yourself and dog when walking at night.

The Ruff Report is a column that appears on, a blog written by Joseph A. Reppucci, a retired editor from The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Massachusetts. Mr. Reppucci worked as a reporter and editor on major daily newspapers in the Boston area for more than 30 years. He is the author of the book, The Hunt of Her Life, a heartwarming story about his once-in-a-lifetime rescue dog. Find it on


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