High-Rise Syndrome is a Risk for Portland Pets

As Portland continues to grow “up” with the addition of numerous high-rise apartment buildings, local pets are at a greater risk of suffering from high-rise syndrome, especially during the hotter days of summer. High-rise syndrome commonly refers to cats and dogs falling from a two-story surface or higher.

DoveLewis sees several high-rise syndrome cases each summer. Oliver, a male cat, fell off a second story balcony onto concrete stairs, fracturing two bones in his hind leg. While he was on the balcony, Oliver ventured out onto an unstable cloth awning and fell 15 feet. His owners rushed him to DoveLewis, where doctors treated his broken paws with splints, examined him for internal bruising, and kept him overnight for monitoring. Oliver returned home the next day to recover. While Oliver will continue to improve over the next six to eight weeks, high-rise syndrome can be fatal.

“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.

Dr. Loftin stresses that it’s important to seek veterinary care immediately after a fall, which will increase their chances of recovery. “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.”

Tips to prevent high-rise syndrome for 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

If your pet falls from an upper story, bring them to your regular vet or call DoveLewis immediately at 503-228-7281.


Alaina Buller

Communications Specialist

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