Your dog can balance very well on its four feet. Some dogs are inherently good at balancing, while for others, it is a skill they learn early in life.
Dogs can be good at balance, but they are not good at being careful. For example, the dog is upstairs, and you call it for a walk or game of fetch. The dog may come bounding down in excitement, ignoring the stairs and stumbling.
If you find your dog falling on the stairs more often, it could suffer from a health condition like an ear infection, physical injury, or specific brain issues.
Regardless of the reason, a fall down the stairs can be dangerous for your pet. It may get out of the fall unscathed or hurt its limbs or internal organs.
If your dog falls down the stairs, do not panic. The article will explore symptoms and the first aid you can provide to help your pet’s condition.
What Symptoms Can a Dog show that has Suffered a Fall?
If you see your dog falling down the stairs, you can check it for wounds or other physical injuries and discuss the condition with the vet. But if the pet has fallen down the stairs in your absence, these symptoms could help you understand if something is wrong with the dog.
Here are a few symptoms a dog that has suffered a fall can show.
1. Limping or Wobbly Gait
This is one of the common symptoms a dog can present after falling. The dog may limp, favor one side, or have a wobbly gait. The dog may also be reluctant to participate in activities it liked before, like running or playing fetch.
Limping could be a sign of joint issues or arthritis, but in such cases, the limping would be gradual and not sudden. If your dog suddenly starts limping, it could be because it has sprained or torn a muscle or a tendon. There could also be nerve damage depending on the pressure on its limb while it fell.
2. Whining in Pain
If your dog is suddenly writhing in pain, you can attribute it to a fall. If the dog has severely hurt its muscles or broken a bone, it will be in a lot of pain.
You may see one of its limbs may have gone limp. The pet may refuse to walk, but when it does, it may drag the foot around because the muscle or bone has been injured to the point that it may not be able to use the limb.
If the dog’s skin has bruised, it could be a sign of internal bleeding. However, this may be a difficult symptom to notice, especially in dogs with many furs.
Internal bleeding is often accompanied by other signs like pale gums, weakness, the dog feeling uneasy, or pain when you touch the affected area. If you detect a shift in your dog’s behavior, carefully examine its physical state and discuss the signs with the vet.
4. Difficulty Breathing
Breathing difficulties could be another sign of internal bleeding. It could also mean the dog has hurt its lungs or has broken its ribs.
In such cases, the dog may excessively cough and throw up blood. One should address breathing difficulties at the earliest, or the condition could turn serious to fatal for the pet.
Also Read: Blood In Dog’s Water Dish? 5 Startling Reasons.
If the dog hits its head when falling down the stairs, disorientation could be one of the signs. If the injury is external, there is bleeding, or you see swelling, you can take the dog to the vet immediately.
But if the dog has suffered a brain injury or a skull fracture, there may not be visible external signs. Also, the signs may present a few hours after the fall.
The dog may not respond to your voice, stare blankly at a wall, and when the injury builds up, the dog may lose consciousness and collapse.
6. Increased Heart Rate
If the dog is excessively drooling, panting, and has an elevated heart rate, it could indicate shock. The condition results from the pet’s circulatory system not working correctly. This further leads to organs like the heart and brain not receiving enough oxygen.
Other signs of shock include pale gums and cool extremities. Again, the condition requires immediate vet care.
What Should I Do After My Dog Fell From the Stairs?
Your dog fell down the stairs. You either saw the dog falling or noticed one of the above mentioned symptoms.
According to VCA Animal Hospitals, here is what you can do next, depending on the dog’s condition.
1. Monitor the Dog’s Breathing
If your dog’s breathing is shallow, coughing, gagging, breathing with its mouth open, or breathing noisy, these are signs of struggling to breathe. It would be best if you drove over to the emergency vet clinic.
If the dog has stopped breathing or fallen unconscious, you must perform rescue breathing. Approach the pet from behind and assess its pulse or heartbeat. If you charge at the pet suddenly when it is aware, it can get startled and panic.
If the dog is not breathing, cover its jaws with your hands and use your mouth for breathing into its nose. It would help if you continued to do so until you saw the dog’s chest rise. You can give the pet 15 to 20 breaths every minute until it starts to breathe on its own.
2. Try to Control the Bleeding
If there is a visible wound and it is bleeding, try to stop or control the bleeding until you reach the vet’s office. Applying gentle but firm direct pressure is one of the best ways to control bleeding from open wounds.
You can place dry gauze or a clean cloth over the wound. Hold the cloth in place, and apply pressure to help with clotting. If the cloth has soaked up blood and the wound is still bleeding, place another layer of gauze or cloth above.
In typical scenarios, the bleeding should stop in 5 to 10 minutes. But this also depends on the severity of the wounds.
3. Look for Physical Changes
If the dog brushes off the fall and behaves as usual, do not assume everything is fine. There is a chance that the symptoms may present themselves at a later stage.
For example, if the dog pulls a muscle or has a mild rib fracture, the condition can worsen over time. In the case of a mild rib fracture, the treatment involves plenty of rest and allowing the bone to heal on its own.
But if the pet runs around like normal, jumping and going up and down the stairs, the rib fracture could become severe. Then the pet may show signs like a bulging chest, difficulties, or bruising.
Similarly, look for other physical changes like limping, change in gait, swelling, or whining in pain when moving around.
You can give the dog a physical check at home. For example, you could take its temperature and monitor its heart rate. Check its skin, gently check its limbs for injuries, and see if the dog winces if you touch a possibly affected area like its belly.
4. Look for Behavioral Changes
Again, if there are no external injuries, you still need to monitor the dog for a few days after the fall to ensure it is doing fine.
See if the dog is going around its routine as normal. Is it eating, pooping, exercising, and playing as usual? Does it respond to your commands? Is it able to give you attention? Can it solve interactive puzzles as before the fall?
If not, the dog could be suffering from a head injury, or it could be in pain. Hiding pain is a survival mechanism that canines have inherited from their wild ancestors. Hiding signs of weakness or pain from predators was how they protected themselves.
So, if the dog is showing behavioral changes like refusal to eat, disorientation, ignoring commands, and reluctance to do normal activities, please discuss the symptoms with the vet.
5. Transport the Dog with Care
If the dog is hurt, you must be careful during transportation to the vet’s clinic, so you do not aggravate the pet’s condition.
When carrying the dog to the car, support its front and hind legs. For smaller dogs, you can gently carry them in your arms.
For medium, to large-sized dogs, this could be a two-person job. If they can walk using three limbs, guide them to the car and help them get inside. You can make a sling using a towel if they cannot walk.
If the dog has a back injury, you must support its chest and hind legs simultaneously while keeping its spine straight. If you have a pet stretcher, that would be ideal. If not, place the dog on a stiff board and lift it with the help of another person.
As far as possible, minimize the pet’s movement. But do not force it down using pressure. If the dog has broken ribs, your struggling to keep it down can worsen its condition. Instead, you could gently pat the pet and repeat soothing words to keep it calm until you reach the clinic.
Should I Rush to the Vet?
The answer depends on the symptoms the dog shows. For example, your dog may emerge fine after falling down the stairs.
It may be a small stumble; the dog brushes off the fall, regain balance, and goes about its day. If the dog is behaving as usual, there is no need to rush to the vet but monitor the pet’s condition for delayed symptoms.
You can discuss the signs with the vet if you notice behavioral changes like loss of appetite, no poop, or reluctance to walk or play. The vet may not ask you to rush to an emergency clinic but to wait, watch, and visit the clinic during normal hours. These signs may require vet care, but they may not be emergencies.
You can also treat minor wounds at home. For example, if the dog scraped its skin and you could control the bleeding quickly, the wound can be treated at home. But if the wound is deep and there is too much blood, visiting the clinic would be a good idea.
In case of other signs like difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, back injuries, disorientation, or increased heart rate, it would be best to rush to the vet.
Why Did My Dog Fall From the Stairs?
If your dog falling down the stairs is a once-in-a-while situation, the cause could be the dog’s emotional state of mind. For example, it could be excited or scared while rushing down the stairs and losing balance.
But if you find your dog falling down the stairs often, there could be a health condition that needs to be identified and treated.
Here are some medical conditions that could lead to balance issues in dogs.
The dog’s vestibular system plays an important role in maintaining balance. This system involves the middle and inner ear, brain, and network of nerves. Infection of the inner ear can alter the dog’s balance, making simple tasks like walking challenging.
An inner ear infection could spread from ear mites in the external ear canal; it could be a foreign object making its way inside the ear or benign growth in the ear. Some dogs with long ears, like Dachshunds, Cocker Spaniels, and Basset Hounds, are prone to ear infections.
Treatment involving antibiotics and medications would be necessary. You will also have to monitor the pet actively, so it does not fall from a height and injure itself.
The dog could repeatedly lose its balance because it is injured and in pain. As mentioned above, dogs hiding their pain is an evolutionary trait. They mask their pain to show no weakness in front of their predators.
Also, dogs are people pleasers; some breeds more than others. So your pet may overcome its pain to greet you happily when you return from work. This can make it difficult to judge if your dog is injured.
There are some subtle signs that an injured dog may display. For example, the dog may walk and run around, but you may notice a reduced speed or frequency. It may take time to get up and lie down. It may attempt to stand in abnormal positions as it may be trying not to put its weight on the injured leg.
A dog suffers from a stroke when its blood vessel becomes partially or entirely blocked. This results in the brain not receiving enough oxygen. Depending on which part of the brain is affected and the severity of the condition, the dog can show various neurological signs.
Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, bleeding disorders, bacteria, and tumor cells could be possible causes of stroke.
A dog with a stroke can show signs like difficulty walking, head tilting, falling to one side, blindness, lack of awareness, or seizures.
Stroke requires vet care. As per the cause, the vet may administer blood thinners, oxygen therapy, and other medications. The neurological signs should resolve as the brain starts receiving enough oxygen.
The incoordination of the nervous system is known as ataxia. Depending on the affected area, the condition can be categorized as cerebellar, spinal, and vestibular ataxia.
The symptoms can be gradual or sudden. Some of the common ones are uncoordinated gait, abnormal eye movement, head tilting, lethargy, loss of appetite, and circling.
The treatment involves identifying the ataxia type, fixing the cause, and managing the symptoms with supportive care. For example, the vet can perform surgery, provide medications and fluid therapy, and manage clinical signs.
Some causes of the condition are not curable; thus, you will have to make lifestyle changes and monitor the dog so it does not hurt itself.
As we explained above, the vestibular system responsible for balance in dogs involves the brain. So, if there is any brain issue, the dog’s gait will be affected.
Dogs suffering from neurological disorders can show signs like wobbly walking, seizures, back pain, listlessness, and slow information processing.
Brain tumors, inflammation, bacteria, parasites, and injury are some of the causes of brain conditions in dogs. Some causes can be treated with surgery and medication, while the vet can provide only supportive care in some cases.
Everyday items you use in your kitchen or your hygiene routine can potentially be toxic to dogs. For example, human foods like onion and garlic, prescription medicine, creams like moisturizers, body lotion, or household cleaning products like bleach or other chemicals can be toxic for canines.
If your dog inhales or ingests these toxins, it can lead to poisoning. For example, if your dog suddenly loses its balance, shows hyperactivity, has vomiting, diarrhea, or is bleeding, it could be poisoned.
If you notice a couple of these symptoms, please get in touch with the vet immediately.
How to Prevent My Dog From Falling Down the Stairs?
If your dog tends to fall down the stairs often, here are some preventative steps you can take to help protect your pet.
Take the Dog to the Vet
You first need to identify what is wrong with the dog. Why does it keep falling? Why does it lose its balance? As we have seen above, several serious health concerns can present uncoordinated gait as their first symptom.
So visit the vet, and describe the dog’s clinical signs, routine, and medical history. The vet may perform a physical examination, blood work, x-rays, and scans to identify the cause and prescribe treatment.
Unless the medical condition is not addressed, the dog may continue to lose its balance and be at risk of falling.
Block Access to the Stairs
You can install a pet gate at the base of your stairs. This is an ideal way to prevent your dog from climbing stairs.
This will not be a hindrance to your daily activities. You can lift the latch, pass, and close the gate behind you.
Ensure you pick an appropriately-sized pet gate. If the gate is small in height, large dogs may simply leap over it and make their way upstairs.
Use a Dog Ramp or Lift
If your dog is aging, it suffers from joint issues, arthritis, or hip dysplasia; along with treatment, lifestyle changes may also be necessary. Unfortunately, conditions like arthritis are progressive and not curable.
To help the dog climb better, you can invest in a dog ramp for the staircase. These ramps make climbing easier; they are lightweight and can be portable. More importantly, they reduce the chances of your pet injuring itself after a fall.
You can also use slings or harnesses to lift the dog and carry it upstairs single-handedly.
There are also innovations being made in the field of dog elevators. This is an expensive option, but if you have the resources, you can install a custom elevator for your dog on one side of your home stairs.
Improve the Stair Condition
There is the possibility of your pet being absolutely fine health-wise and still tripping due to the poor stair conditions. You may be able to see and avoid the broken floorboard on the stair, but your dog may not. Fix broken stairs immediately if you have children or pets in the house.
Another reason could be that the stairs are slippery. You can carpet your stairs or invest in extra-grip stair treads.
Consider installing a light bulb if there is limited visibility around the stairs.
My dog fell down the stairs – this can be a worrying situation for any pet parent. However, do not panic and try to lift the pet. You first need to assess the dog’s condition and symptoms.
For example, monitor the dog’s breathing and gait, and check for bruises or neurological signs. If the dog is not breathing, give it CPR. If there is bleeding, control it using a clean piece of cloth. In case of a broken bone, transport the pet using a sling or a stiff board at the back.
Delayed symptoms after a fall may include limping, pain, lethargy, loss of appetite, and difficulty walking. Please discuss the signs with the vet for further treatment.
If your pet falls often, get a thorough examination, as it could indicate an underlying medical issue.
Heather Abraham is a professional blogger who owns two dogs, a cat, a parrot, and a leopard gecko. She has a connection with animals since she was a child. She shares her love for all pet breeds and provides information on pet food, toys, medications, beds, and everything else.
She is committed to learning about the internal workings of animals. Her work permits her to work closely with knowledgeable vets and obtain practical expertise in animal care. When she is not working, her love of animals continues in her writing. Her goal is to educate and uplift readers who also have a passion for animals through her writing.