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Fall from Heights and your Dog

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

The term fall from heights conjures up a dog falling from a multi-story building, and so you probably think it has no relevance to you, however, did you know that a fall from a lounge suite can be classified as a fall from heights.

A fall from height is where a dog falls from one level to another without control, and in turn, sustains an injury.

An injury which may be minor or so severe that it could be life-threatening.

A fall can be as a consequence of something as simple as a

  • stumble when walking; or

  • being dropped accidentally or deliberately; or

  • trips off an edge like a gutter

  • falls or slips down stairs; or

  • slips down a hill; or

  • falls off furniture or

  • falls off a ledge; or

  • falling out of a window; or

  • falls in a ditch; or

  • off the back of a car; or

  • out of the car when moving; or

  • from falling off agility equipment; or

  • falls from a height after a collision with a moving vehicle;

to name but a few.

Impact of a fall

Only the other day Isabeau, my silky terrier, stood like a meercat on the edge of the bed trying to look out the window; lost her balance and toppled to the floor; fortunately, the only thing she hurt was her pride!

A fall may not impact your dog at all; some dogs are quite able to hop up and down off furniture or vehicles; some dogs are champions on the agility course; but what if they fall the wrong way, slip or trip; or maybe they were unwell and you didn’t know it at the time.

And then there are dogs who may immediately hurt themselves; they could be small, elderly, overweight and unfit or just at the awkward stage of being a puppy.

Your dog could sustain any number of serious injuries, for example:

  • Ligament damage

  • Dislocated joints or shoulder;

  • Fractured limb/s or hip,

  • Internal injuries to lungs, spleen, liver, bladder, kidneys

  • Severe bleeding from open wounds

  • Brain trauma

  • Spinal injury

As dog owners or professionals, we need to not only identify the fall hazards around us, and mitigate the risks of those hazards, we must also learn how to respond if our dog is hurt from a fall.

Safety Precautions

  • Keep windows closed when not in the room with your dog or ensure they are security screened’

  • Keep dog on leash when around cliff edges, ravines, ditches and don’t allow them near after rains

  • Help dog down from car, furniture or use a ramp as required for your dog’s ability or fitness

  • Have your dog trained by a professional on agility teeters, jumps, hurdles and never leave unsupervised

  • Ensure your dog is restrained when in the car and don’t allow them to hang their head out of the window. If you can’t by law hang your elbow or arm out why is it ok to allow your dog to have his/her head out?

  • Use shoes if dog is walking on ice covered roads to avoid slipping; or hot roads or panic or running off due to pain

  • Have a look around your home or holiday or event locations and see if there are any hazards before allowing your dog to roam free

  • Buy yourself a comprehensive emergency dog first aid kit and guide

  • Learn dog first aid

Signs & Symptoms

Your dog may show some or all of the following:

  • Decreased appetite or difficulty eating

  • Dog is reluctant or refuses to stand or walk

  • Compared to usual, dog seems lethargic / fatigued

  • Dog whines, whimpers from pain when lying down or rising

  • If still able to walk, dog may appear stiff or to be limping

  • Breathing laboured or struggles to breathe

  • May appear confused or disorientated

  • You may see open or closed wounds from the fall or hitting into a hard or sharp object after landing

  • Shock

  • Pupils are unresponsive to light

  • Full or partial paralysis

  • Unconsciousness


Always manage for potential spinal injuries in falls

1. Undertake Primary Assessment DRSABC

  • Check for Dangers – a danger may be that you’re at risk of being bitten you’re your frightened dog; falling yourself if ledge or ditch.

  • Is your dog responding to your voice or your touch? If not, your dog may be unconscious

  • Send for help; if there is someone else in the house get them to do things like get the first aid kit, prepare the car, call the Vet. They may help you lift your dog and maintaining spinal precautions

  • Check the airway for blockages or foreign objects; remove if there is.

  • Check the breathing (respirations) e.g. count the rise and fall of the chest – start artificial respiration if not breathing. Is the breathing normal or shallow, fast or not breathing?

  • Check circulation (pulse) – does your dog have a pulse? start CPR if no pulse

2. Undertake a Secondary (Head to Tail) Assessment.

3. Manage:

  • Spinal injury

  • Life-threatening bleeding

  • Penetrating injury

  • Shock

  • Eye injuries

  • Fractures

4. Calm your dog, talking in a soothing tone; restrict pet’s movement; wrap in warm


5. Get to vet

If you have you have someone who can drive you:

  • If your dog stops breathing, begin artificial respiration on the way to the vet surgery.

  • If your dog’s heart stops beating, begin CPR on the way to the vet surgery.


Fursafe Emergency Dog First Aid Guide

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