Summer is canine window jumping season. Windows are more likely to be open when it’s warm. Canine self-defenestration reaches its peak on July 4, when fireworks drive. Many dogs to such levels of terror that they not only jump out of open windows but are known to even smash through closed ones.
Dogster Editor-in-Chief Janine Kahn learned the horror firsthand in June when her Italian Greyhound, Moxie, jumped from a third-floor window. It’s not just windows in the home that pose a risk for dogs. Car windows have the potential to be menaces to the health and well-being of traveling pooches.
What, besides fireworks, might cause a dog to jump through a home window? I have treated dogs who have jumped from a second-story or higher windows to chase squirrels or pick fights with other dogs. Dogs with separation anxiety may hurl themselves out of windows due to their condition. I have heard tales of dogs playing indoors until their owners accidentally threw the toy out of the window. With sad but predictable results.
What are the consequences of jumping out of the window?
The consequences of jumping out of windows can be severe. If the window is on the ground floor, the dog may not suffer injuries in a fall. But will be at risk of becoming lost or suffering one of the sad fates (such as being struck by a car) that can occur in unaccompanied wandering canines.
If the window is elevated above the ground by any distance, self-defenestrating dogs risk significant trauma. Those that hurl themselves out open windows may suffer considerable consequences of blunt trauma. Crushing through plate glass risks substantial lacerations and penetrating trauma from sharp glass shards.
Cats generally land on their feet. Dogs are less reliable in this regard, and any part of their body may make the first impact on the ground. Consequently, the whole armor of injuries that can occur from blunt trauma must be considered when a dog has jumped from a height.
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What if bones break?
Broken bones are very common among dogs who fall from height. And dogs may break legs, ribs, the pelvis, and the spine. I have treated several dogs with broken backs after falling from height.
Trauma to the skin is also common, and impact on the ground may cause significant abrasions. Depending upon the landing, some dogs suffer severe lacerations and even degloving injuries, in which the skin is sheared from the body.
Some owners of dogs who jump through windows rush downstairs to find their pets walking around, apparently uninjured and behaving as if nothing happened. Although such a situation is better than the alternative, there is still potential for significant internal injuries. Dogs may suffer from collapsed lungs, bruised lungs, internal bleeding, a ruptured urinary bladder, or neurological concussions. Which may not immediately manifest after a fall; unfortunately, shock and significant complications could be just around the corner. Therefore, any dog that has fallen far away should receive an immediate veterinary evaluation.
Dogs who jump through windows in moving vehicles are at risk for all the injuries mentioned above. However, they are at particular risk for laceration and degloving injuries when they hit the concrete while moving. And it’s not uncommon for the next car on the road or even the owner’s car to collide with them.
The dog and its owner
I once treated a dog traveling with its owner in a pickup truck. The dog was belted in with a harness, yet he managed to slip the saddle and then. In a freak coincidence, placed his paw on the automatic window switch. The window lowered, and the dog jumped; the owner felt one of his rear wheels strike the dog. Fortunately, the truck was not carrying any cargo, and thus the car was relatively light. The dog suffered life-threatening injuries, including bruised lungs, but he survived with treatment.
How can canine self-defenestration be prevented? Although the dog in the above example rolled down his window, most dogs don’t pull off such feats. Never, as a rule, open any windows in the home or the car wide enough for the dog to get through. Do not assume your dog can control his impulse to chase when he sees a squirrel, even if he’s four floors up or in a car going 60. Dogs in vehicles should ride in crates or should be belted in.
How to prevent dogs from jumping through closed windows?
If your dog has separation anxiety, don’t leave him unattended in a room with a window. And every dog owner should take special care on July 4, New Year’s Eve, or any other date (Lunar New Year is a big one where I live) on which fireworks are expected. I have seen the havoc that fireworks anxiety wreaks on dogs, both professionally and in the terrified eyes of my pet.
On those dates, or whenever the San Francisco Giants win the World Series, my pal Buster and I lock ourselves downstairs in the basement, and Buster is given sedatives. Fortunately, for those times when the Giants are winning, there is a TV and a small beer fridge to keep us company.