High-rise syndrome: Cats and dogs tend to fall from tall buildings in the summer

Patrick before the fall from a Lloyd District high-rise last week. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Pante)

How common is it for pets to fall from high-rise buildings?

So common that it’s got a name: High-rise syndrome.

And as Portland builds up, the number of cats and dogs taking a tumble is expected to keep going up, too. Since May, says Dr. Emily Scavuzzo of Dove Lewis Animal Hospital, about a dozen animals have inadvertently taken the plunge since May.

“They will fall usually from a second story or above to varying degrees of distance,” Scavuzzo said.”They can undergo any kind of injury from leg fractures, to bruises to their hearts and lungs, to damage to their internal organs in the abdomen. We've seen shattered jaws.

Scavuzzo took time out to talk about the syndrome last week while treating Paul Iavicoli and Taylor Pante’s cat, Patrick. A good Samaritan found the injured kitty after it fell from the couple’s 9th floor apartment in the Lloyd District to a second-story balcony below.

Patrick (nickname Patrick the Hat Trick) shattered his jaw, bruised his lungs and broke a leg. After initial treatment last week, Patrick will be back in surgery Tuesday to repair the jaw and his split hard palate.

“They are waiting for a contusion to heal before going back in to fix the jaw and palate,’’ Iavicoli said.

The vet bill will cost the couple about $6,000. They’ve raised $4,050 towards their goal of $5,940 on GoFundMe.com.

Dr. Scavuzzo said dogs tend to suffer greater injuries than cats.

“The injuries can run the gamut for both cats and dogs,” she said “The injuries can tend to be more severe for dogs. They're heavier in front so they tend to fall forward onto their face and front paws. Cats tend to make kind of kitty umbrella and land on all four feet.”

Even if your dog or cat looks fine after a fall, Dr. Erika Loftin, a DoveLewis critical care specialist, said it’s important to have the animal checked out.

“Due to the release of adrenaline, animals may not look like they are in pain initially after a fall, but they can sustain serious internal injuries that will not be apparent until later,” Loftin said “Survival rates are actually high if your pet is alive and brought to the hospital quickly to receive appropriate critical care treatment.”

Tips to prevent high-rise syndrome in dogs and cats

• Watch your pets at all times when they are on balconies, on patios or near open windows.

• Don't leave windows open – even a crack – as pets can nose them open wider.

• Don't depend on window screens to keep pets from falling. Many pets treated for high-rise injures at DoveLewis had broken through a window screen.

• Keep furniture that pets can climb on away from windows.

• Move patio furniture away from railings.

• Close windows before throwing toys for your pets to chase.

• Install air conditioning so windows can be closed on upper floors.

Common injuries from high-rise syndrome

• Shattered jaws

• Punctured lungs

• Bruising to the heart and lungs

• Fractured or broken limbs, ribs and pelvises

• Brain swelling

• Internal bleeding

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