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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Falls View In Dogs

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Tiny dogs are often injured in falls when they jump from an owner's arms or off high furniture. They usually break one or both front legs. Although cats are considered sure footed creatures, they can be injured if they misjudge a leap or loose their balance.


Even if you don't see your pet fall, a limp or refusal to move could alert you to a broken bone or internal injuries. Cats may refuse to eat when injured from a fall because they often hit the ground with their chins and break their jaws. Pain from a fracture, lung bruising, or heart bruising can make pets struggle to breathe.

Injuries may not be obvious right away, but they can become dangerous in as little as 1.5 hours.


Falling from an unsafe height.


Diagnosis can be made by observing the dogs behavior. A veterinary exam will reveal the severity of the injury.


  1. Watch for stopped breathing - If your pet stops breathing, you will need to breathe for him by blowing air into his lungs. Wrap your hand around his muzzle and cover his nose with your mouth. Give 2 quick breaths, watching to see if his chest rises. Then give 15 - 20 breaths per minute until your pet starts breathing again or until you reach medical help.
  2. Be alert for possible internal injuries - Broken ribs can cut the lungs or poke holes (hernias) into the tissue that separates the abdominal organs from the heart and lungs. Diaphragmatic hernias are common with falls. Pets have trouble breathing when the stomach, intestines, and other organs spill into the wrong space. The resulting shock can cause organ failure and blood loss that could kill your pet rapidly. Get him to the vet immediately.
  3. Control bleeding - Falls often punch broken bone through the skin and cause bleeding. Put direct pressure on the bleeding with a gauze pad, clean cloth, or sanitary napkin that will absorb the blood. Usually, bleeding will stop in 5 minutes or less. If the pad soaks through, don't remove it, or you could disrupt the forming of a scab. Instead, just put another pad on top of the first and continue the pressure.
  4. Cover open wounds - Any open wound, whether it is from a bone that pokes through the skin or a punctured abdomen, should be covered to protect it from further contamination. Wrap a clean towel over and around the injury.
  5. Keep pets with broken ribs still - If you can see that your pet has broken ribs, try to get him to lie down on a soft towel placed in a pet carrier or on a rigid surface and carefully transport him to the vet. If he is uncomfortable lying on his side and fights to remain upright, more damage may result. If he will sit quietly in the carrier or on the board, don't try to force him to lay down.
  6. Seal sucking chest wounds - If there is a sucking chest wound, you'll see a bubbling and hear tha air rushing into the body through the hole as your pet strains to breathe. Wrapping plastic wrap (like Saran Wrap) over the wound and around your pets body works well to seal the wound. Wrap lightly to seal the area, but not tightly enough to restrict breathing, and transport your pet with the injured side down.
  7. Protect chest or abdominal wounds - You need to keep bacteria away from the injury. Use a clean plastic garbage bag or plastic wrap to cover the injury and have your pet lie on the injured side. This helps maintain the internal vacuum of the chest so that the lungs won't collapse and can work efficiently.
  8. Look for head and back injuries - Any blood in the eyes, nose, or mouth means possible head injury. A pet who can't get up or refuses to get up could have a back injury. In either case, move him as little as possible. Don't pick him up to move him. Instead, slide a flat, rigid object like a cookie sheet, large book, or a board under him. Then place a towel or blanket over him to help hold him in place.
  9. Use care with fractures - a small pet with a broken leg can be gently laid on a rigid surface and covered with a blanket or towel. He will do best in a pet carrier or a box. Don't carry your pet in your arms, because it can increase his stress level. if you don't have a box or carrier, you can use a clean trash can lid, as long as it is sturdy enough to bear your pet's weight without buckling. Try to move the injured limb as little as possible as you transport your pet to the vet.
  10. Protect yourself - You dog may need to be muzzled before you can safely help them. See our video on how to make an emergency muzzle out of a flat leash or you can use a neck tie, pantyhose, or another length of material. Tie it around his nose and knot it on top of his muzzle, then draw the ends beneath his chin and know again. Finally, pull the ends back and tie them behind his ears.


Keep pets away from dangerous areas.


Fractures may heal in as little as 6 weeks, but they often take longer, depending on the severity of the fracture and the age of the animal. They must rest the injured part during that time for it to heal properly. Keep your pet from jumping, climbing, or running, until the splint, pin, or cast is removed.

Your veterinarian may prescribe a drug like tartrate buturphanol (Torbugesic), which you will have to administer several times a day. Discuss your pet's pain management choices with your vet.

Cats with broken jaws will have trouble eating solid food for several weeks, especially if the fracture has been wired together. Mix the food with warm water or low-fat, no-salt chicken broth to form a soft gruel or paste that they can lick up and don't have to chew.

Pets who have suffered ruptured bladders, diaphragmatic hernias, or other internal injuries have incisions and stitches that need to be kept clean. Use a sterile gauze pad and warm water to wipe away any discharge.

Show Sources & Contributors +


The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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