I’ve owned pickup trucks for the last 15 years or so. Residing in some very rural parts of Virginia and Wyoming and keeping horses on my property have made them a necessity. However, my dogs have never ridden unrestrained in the bed of a truck. I always find a way to cram them into the cab or use a shell or crate to keep them safe in the back.

Some of the worst injuries I’ve ever treated have occurred when dogs have jumped out of or been thrown from the beds of trucks. I honestly don’t know what these owners were thinking. It is incomprehensible to me that they didn’t recognize the danger involved. Even if you believe your dog is so perfectly trained that he wouldn’t jump out to chase a deer or cat, and you are so confident in your driving abilities that your are positive you’d never be the cause of an accident, anyone who has been driving long enough knows that there are some really poor drivers out there. Do you really want to put your dog’s well-being in their hands?

Two tragic cases come to mind. The first dog jumped out of the truck while it was idling at a stop light and ran across a couple of lanes of traffic before being hit by an oncoming vehicle. The dog was essentially normal from the waist forward but the force of the impact had broken her spine and severed her spinal cord. Her hind end was completely paralyzed, including her ability to urinate and defecate on her own, and there was no hope for improvement. I euthanized her on the X-ray table with her guilt stricken owner sobbing at her head.

My second patient jumped from the bed of a truck that was moving at around 45 miles per hour. It was truly miraculous that he lived through the impact and made it to the veterinary hospital. The left side of his body looked fine, but he was missing most of the skin and a lot of underlying tissue from his right front leg and was covered in road rash over the majority of that side of his body. We spent countless hours over the next few weeks picking hair, pieces of asphalt, and other debris out of his wounds. The injury to his right front leg took months to heal, and involved several surgeries, including skin grafts. Though he survived, he will forever limp and bear the scars of his owner’s carelessness.

There is no good reason for a dog to be put at risk in this way. If he can’t ride in the cab or be left at home, purchase a pet crate and affix it securely in the bed of the truck. Collars, harness, and leashes are not a substitute for a solidly built crate as dogs can be hanged or dragged if they fall or jump from the truck.

Come on, people, let’s use a little common sense.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: cjc4454 / via Flickr