Dogs can be quite clumsy and having four legs sometimes it’s a hindrance instead of an advantage because it’s enough for one foot to slip and they will be tumbling down, sometimes with unfortunate consequences.
If your dog falls down the stairs, you should start monitoring them closely, in fact, even if after the initial fall they seem good, they may start showcasing their discomfort or pain only after several hours and this can quickly become a medical emergency.
What should you do if your dog falls down the stairs?
Whether you saw your dog falling down the stairs or you’re just suspecting that something has happened to them, you should look out for these behaviors:
- Breathing difficulty
- Being reluctant standing or walking
- Odd walking/movements
- Lack of appetite or inability to eat properly
- Pained when moving/rising/lying down
Sometimes dogs start showcasing their discomfort or pain only after several hours after the fall, so even if your dog looks fine at the time of the fall, keep them close to you for the following hours or days.
What should you do if your dog has broken bones?
If your dog fell downstairs and can’t stand up, they may have broken some bones in the legs or ribs, or they may have a back injury and shouldn’t be moved.
Small dogs may break their bones even just by jumping off the couch, so make sure to teach your dog not to do that.
They might show symptoms immediately or after several hours, when the broken bones have pierced the lungs or caused further damage.
In many cases, broken ribs may prevent your dog from breathing properly, so watch out for labored breathing and if you suspect that it’s connected to a fall you didn’t witness, bring your dog to the veterinarian.
If your dog fell down the stairs and is now limping or if you suspect that your dog has broken bones, they will need special care when moved:
– If you have a small breed, make sure to support both the front and back legs when transporting your dog to the car, and do it carefully.
– For large breed dogs, make a stretcher out of a rigid material like wood or a baking sheet, or alternatively, you can use bedsheets, a blanket, or a towel to move the dog as gently as possible.
It’s important not to shake the dog too much when moving them, because the ribs may cause the rupture of the lungs, so if your dog wants to lie or stand in a particular position, let them.
If your dog has difficulty eating, drops their food, whines when they eat, or has excessive salivation and drooling, they may have broken their jaw. This kind of broken bone is not always evident, so make sure your dog is examined by a veterinarian.
The fall and consequently broken bones may also cause the rupture of the bladder, in which case your dog could be unable to urinate or pass the stools. If your dog doesn’t urinate for more than 24 hours, bring them to the vet.
What should you do if your dog is bleeding?
Wounds should be covered with clean cloth or towels, especially those that have protruding bones because if they get infected it could compromise your dog’s recovery or turn into a life-threatening situation.
If the wound is bleeding profusely, wrap the cloth around the wound tightly enough to stop the bleeding and apply gentle pressure on it. If the cloth gets soaked in blood, do not remove it, but simply wrap another layer on top of it.
Bleeding should stop within 5-10 minutes, however, it could take longer for dogs who have coagulopathies. If a major organ like the spleen or liver was pierced, bleeding may be severe and your dog will require prompt intervention.
If you notice blood-shot eyes or blood in the nose or mouth, it could be a sign of head injury. Do not wait to see how profusely they bleed because dogs tend to lick the blood from their nose and swallow that in their mouth. Just bring them to the veterinarian immediately.
What should you do if your dog stops breathing?
There’s no saying in what can happen once your dog falls down the stairs. When they have broken bones (especially broken ribs), there’s the rupture of an organ or another major problem, they could have difficulty breathing or even stop altogether.
In this case, you need to take them to the veterinarian as quickly as possible while making sure to keep their oxygen level up.
If your dog stopped breathing, follow these steps:
- Wrap your hands around their muzzle like a funnel
- Keep their mouth close
- Blow air into their nose and check if their chest is rising (if done properly, it should)
- Give 15-20 breaths per minute until they start breathing again
- If they don’t start breathing, continue ventilation until you reach the hospital
Why is your dog falling down the stairs?
Sometimes it’s just an accident, which is why you should never let your dog run loose, whether it’s in the house or outside.
Maybe your dog fell down the stairs because they’re excited about their upcoming meal, for a walk, or for their playtime, which makes them run down the stairs without paying enough attention.
If you can rule out these circumstances and your dog keeps slipping or falling down the stairs for no apparent reason, especially if they could go up and down with no problems before, then there could be an underlying issue.
Stairs are designed for humans and not for dogs, so it’s not uncommon to have stairs in or outside the house that are not easy for dogs to climb.
The materials used for common staircases often include hardwood and tiles, which are very slippery and could be the reason why your dog keeps falling down the stairs.
The design also plays a key role, because small dogs could have difficulties climbing high or steep stairs or a staircase that has an irregular shape.
It’s also not uncommon for dogs to fall down a staircase that has a broken step, a piece missing, or another kind of small damage.
Despite the difficulties, a dog will try to go up and down the stairs anyway, so make sure your staircase is dog-friendly.
A dog’s inner ear is responsible for more than just hearing sounds. In fact, it regulates the balance of the body.
A dysfunction or an infection affecting the inner ear could be the reason why your dog falls down the stairs.
If that’s the case, your dog may also show other symptoms, such as:
- The inability to walk properly
- Going around in circles
- Loss of appetite
Old dogs are more prone to this issue because they may be affected by the vestibular disease, which is common in old pooches but can also affect young dogs.
On the other hand, if your dog has an ear infection, you will notice something odd about their ears, as they should be irritated or swollen and your dog will probably scratch it out of discomfort.
Your dog can get head trauma from falling down the stairs, but it could also be that they fell down the stairs because they already had a head injury.
Spinal cord or head trauma could cause ataxia, which is a condition where your dog’s nervous system is unable to coordinate the movements. Vestibular disease is considered a type of ataxia, but there are also other two types:
– Proprioception: dogs affected by this kind of ataxia are unable to locate their limbs in space, therefore their movements are difficult and quite abnormal.
– Cerebellum: this is not the name, but rather where this kind of ataxia stems from within the body. The cerebellum is the part of the brain where movement is coordinated. Dogs affected by this kind of ataxia are alright when resting, but when they start moving they show head tremors and exaggerated limb movement.
Treatment for this condition depends on its origin and unfortunately in some cases, it is not possible to cure ataxia.
Brain tumors are not always easy to detect, they usually require a CT or MRI scan to be identified.
Most dogs that develop brain tumors are older than 5 years of age, however, it’s possible for younger dogs to develop brain tumors as well, although rarely.
A brain tumor can be:
– Primary: when it originates from brain tissue.
– Secondary: when it originates from cells that traveled to the brain from a tumor in another part of the body (metastases).
Brain tumors that affect the cerebellum might cause ataxia and consequent loss of coordination and control over the limbs.
There are some dog breeds that are more prone to develop different kind of malignant or benign brain tumors, including:
- Golden Retrievers
- Scottish Terrier
- Doberman Pinscher
- Old English Sheepdog
- Chinese Pug
Apart from abnormal movements, lack of coordination, and unreasonable falls, other symptoms of brain tumors in dogs may be:
- Sight issues
- Wobbly gate
- Neck pain
- Abnormal mental activity
In this case, falling down the stairs may be considered a symptom, especially in older dogs. If your dog has been acting weird for a few days before or after the fall, it’s time for a medical examination.
How to prevent your dog from falling down the stairs.
There are treatments for clinical conditions, but there is no treatment for accidents outside of good prevention.
Whether your dog fell down the stairs in the past or not, most regular staircases today are not designed for dogs and could be dangerous for them.
When you decide to adopt a puppy, you should make your house dog-proof, whether it’s buying a locked bin to avoid your dog going through the trash, or making your stairs as safe as possible for them to climb.
Here are some tips to prevent your dog from falling down the stairs in the future:
– Repair the stairs: old stairs, especially if outside and subjected to the weather, can easily start falling apart or break. Even inside the house, there could be minor damages to your staircase that doesn’t look like a big deal to you but could make a great difference for your dog, so make sure to keep your stairs in their best state.
– Stair runner: this is the best solution for hardwood stairs or surfaces that are too slippery for your dog. A stair runner or a carpet can prevent your dog from falling down the stairs while keeping your staircase looking good. Alternatively, consider using materials that are better for dogs.
– Block access to the stairs: maybe the easiest and quickest way to solve the problem of dogs falling down the stairs is to block the passage. There are pet gates available on the market that you can install in front of the stairs. They will give you easy access to the stairs and sometimes even close automatically behind you, so your dog can’t put themselves in danger anymore.
– Carry your dog: if you feel like working out, carrying your dog up and down the stairs is a good option! It may be harder with large breed dogs, so it’s mostly advice for those who have small dogs. If you’re scared of dropping them, put them in the kennel, and only unlock the door once you reach the floor.
– Use dog support: if you have a large breed dog, you certainly can’t carry them in your arms up and down the stairs. However, even large dogs will get older, and as they get older they may develop joint and hip problems that could make it hard for them to go up the stairs. Buying a dog sling can help you solve this problem because you can lift your dog’s rear, which is where they usually place the most weight when climbing the stairs.
– Install a ramp: dogs with short legs or old dogs have a hard time going up the stairs, even if it’s just a few steps. Installing a ramp could eliminate the issue for both categories and you wouldn’t even have to worry about them slipping because ramps have surfaces designed to be non-slippery.
– Improve visibility: your staircase may not receive natural light or be located in an area of the house that is poorly lit. If your dog can’t see the stairs, they can’t climb them. However, they may try nonetheless and end up hurting themselves. Take into consideration that as they get older, their eyesight also gets worse. Make sure your stairs are well-lit or consider buying a fluorescent duct-tape to trace each step of the staircase (yellow and blue are the colors that dogs can see better).
Despite all the precautions, a dog might still fall down the stairs. If you suspect there may be an underlying condition, do not hesitate to bring your pet to the veterinarian.
How to train your puppy to use the stairs.
If your puppy falls down the stairs maybe they just don’t know how to use them properly.
It’s important to teach your dog how to use the stairs to prevent accidents that could compromise their health or even be deadly in the future.
The key to teaching your puppy how to climb the stairs is moderation. You can’t start with a full staircase if you don’t want to see your puppy falling down the stairs.
In order to train your dog to use the stairs, follow these simple steps:
– Step 1: start small. If you have a place with just one step (like your entrance door), start from there. Place a treat on the step and let your puppy go up to eat it. Then lure them back down with the same trick. Repeat this step multiple times until your dog is going up and down with no problems.
– Step 2: Move to a bigger staircase, maybe 2-3 steps. If you don’t have a suitable place, you can use the bottom of your regular staircase. Using the same trick, lure your dog up a few steps at a time, then back down. Repeat this step until your puppy can go up and down a few steps with no insecurities.
– Step 3: include additional steps every time your dog improves. Soon enough, they will be able to use your whole staircase on their own!
Another key element when training your dog is patience. Your dog may not be always willing to learn or may be anxious or scared at first.
Do not force them to use the stairs against their will, or you will get the opposite effect and increase the likelihood of accidents.