Pets at greater risk of falling from high-rise buildings as Portland continues to grow

Oliver the cat fell 15 feet onto concrete stairs, fracturing two bones in his hind legs (Photo courtesy DoveLewis Animal Hospital)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Cranes for upcoming high-rise buildings seem to be a mainstay in Portland's skyline as the city grows more and more each year.

What current and prospective pet owners living in high-rises may not have thought about is"high-rise syndrome" -- pets falling off high-rise balconies and getting seriously injured.

According to DoveLewis Animal Hospital, there have been 10 cases of "high-rise syndrome" in Portland this summer -- two have been reported in the last week.

Oliver the cat fell 15 feet off a second-story balcony onto concrete stairs, fracturing two bones in his hind leg.

“It's important for pet owners to take preventive measures if their pets have access to rooms or balconies on upper levels, as high-rise syndrome can be very dangerous. Dogs typically sustain worse injuries than cats, and injuries from falls like this are more common in the summer,” said Dr. Erika Loftin, a DoveLewis critical care specialist.

It's important to get your pet help immediately if he or she falls.

"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. Survival rates are actually high if your pet is alive and brought to the hospital quickly to receive appropriate critical care treatment. Also, be sure to be careful while handling an injured pet, since they can be in shock and are more likely to bite," Dr. Loftin said.

Here's a few tips to prevent high-rise syndrome in dogs and cats, courtesy DoveLewis:

• 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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