Common Injuries In Cats Who Fall Out Of Buildings

During my internship at The Animal Medical Center in New York City, I was introduced to a condition in cats called ‘High-rise syndrome’.  When people open their windows to enjoy the fresh air, some cats accidently fall to the sidewalks below.  On the first nice day of spring, I remember the senior veterinarian saying, “It’s going to rain cats tonight.”  An hour later, I saw my first high-rise syndrome cat.  The orange tabby dropped 18 floors and lived to tell of it!  He came into the clinic with blood pouring from his nose, a fractured leg and difficulty breathing.  He went home a week later with a promise from his owner to purchase screens for their windows.  

In 1987, Drs. Whitney and Mehlhaff, analyzed the medical records of cats brought to the Animal Medical Center with high-rise syndrome to determine what kind of injuries they sustained.  Here are the findings:

-Lung contusions 68%
-Pneumothorax 63%
-Abnormal respiration 55%
-Limb fracture 39%
-Shock 24%
-Traumatic luxation 18%
-Hard palate fracture 17%
-Hypothermia 17%
-Dental fractures 17%

Last week, I treated a kitten who fell 3 stories on to gravel. A good samaritan found her lying on her back crying.  She was one of the lucky ones who survived the fall without any serious injuries.  


Whitney, W.O., Mehlhaff, C.J. ‘High-rise Syndrome in Cats’ J. Am Vet Med Assoc. Dec. 1987; 191 (11):1399-403. 

Prebiotics for Dogs and Cats

I find the term ‘prebiotics’ to be a bit misleading.  Since the term ‘Probiotics’ refers to the beneficial bacteria that live in the intestines, it is natural to assume that the term prebiotics refers to a precursor of the bacteria.  It doesn’t.  The term prebiotics refers to a special type of fiber that can be broken down for energy by the bacteria that live in the gut.  Here is the best description I found written by Elizabeth Warren.  Probiotics “contribute to a healthy environment for gut flora, usually by providing sources of fermentable foods which bacteria can digest.  Nutrients released feed both the beneficial bacteria and cells of the colon, improving the environment and immune function of the large intestine.” 

Fiber is divided into two categories, insoluble which passes through the intestines virtually unchanged and soluble which is metabolized by bacteria for food.  The soluble fiber must pass through the acidic environment of the stomach intact.  When it reaches the intestines, the normal resident bacteria digest it for food.  Maintaining a healthy population of non-pathogenic bacteria keeps the harmful bacteria from invading the gut and causing disease.  The byproducts also decrease the pH of the colon as well as stimulate absorption of sodium and water.   

There are basically two types of insoluble fiber that work well dogs and cats, oligofructose and inulin.  Oligofrutose is found in soybeans, oats, beets and tomatoes while inulin is found in Jerusalem artichoke, jimcama and chickory root. 
-Kirk, C. Top Neutraceuticals in Pet Foods and Practice, World Small ANimal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings 2011.
-Pan, X et al., Prebiotics oligosaccharide change the concentrations of short-chain fatty acids and the microbial population of mouse bowel. J of Zhejiang Immuno Source B 2009; 10(4): 258-263.  
-Warren, E. Nutraceuticals, VIN, April 4, 2007.
-Wontinger, A. What Do Prebiotics and Probiotics Really Do? Western Veterinary Conference 2012. 

Probiotics for Animals

Probiotics are bacteria that are given to animals or people to establish a healthy population of microbes in the intestinal tract.  In order to be effective, these microbes must survive the acidic environment of the stomach as well as the bile secreted by the gall bladder in the intestines.  They must also survive any medication the patient might be taking including antibiotics like metronidazole.  Once in the gut, they need to adhere to the intestinal lining to establish a healthy population of microbes and prevent the adherence of pathogenic organisms including Salmonella, E. coli and Clostridium.  These ‘good’ bacteria metabolize insoluble fibers also called prebiotics into substances that are detrimental to the harmful bacteria.  They also produce energy for the cells of the colon.  Above all else, they must do no harm, i.e. not cause disease in the patient. 

The bacteria used and most studied are Lactobacillus, Bidifobacteria and Enterococcus spp. The veterinary products are Azodyl, Fortiflora and Prostora Max.    

Over the years, the use of probiotics has increased dramatically in veterinary medicine.  Here are some of the more common uses: 
1) Diarrhea 
2) Inflammatory bowel disease
3) Allergic dermatitis also called atopy
4) Recurrent urinary tract infections
5) Tear staining
6) Renal failure 
7) Patients on long-term antibiotics
8) Gut inoculation in hand-raised animals. 

Since these products contain live organisms, it is important to handle them with care.  Improper storage may kill the microbes. 

-Kirk, C. ‘Top Nutraceutical in Pet Foods and Practice’, World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2011.
-Warren, A. Nutraceuticals, VIN, April 4, 2007
-Wortinger, A. ‘What Do Prebiotics and Probiotics Really Do?’, Western Veterinary Conference, 2012

Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church Blesses Animals

On Saturday, April 13th, 2013, Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church located in Cave Creek, Arizona will host a blessing of the animals.  The event starts at 10:00am and all animals receive a St. Francis medal.  According the church, they host this event to celebrate God’s creation.  Here is how they describe it:

“When we bless something, we focus our attention on the perfection that God put into it when God created it.  When we bless what is good in our lives we increase it, and recognize it as a channel of God’s grace in our lives. In the Blessing of the Animals, we give thanks for the ways in which they enrich our lives, and recognize our role as faithful stewards of God’s creation.” 

More information at

You Make the Diagnosis: Name This Gum Condition in Dogs

Pictured below is the mouth of dog who was having surgery.  The clear trach tube seen extending from his mouth is used to pass a mixture of oxygen and an anesthetic gas into the lungs.  It is gently tied around the dog’s head to keep it from slipping out.  Look closely at the dog’s mouth then answer the following questions:  What does this dog have?  What is(are) the cause(s)?  How is it treated? 

Diagnosis:  Gingival Hyperplasia

Gingival hyperplasia is defined as excessive growth of the gum tissue.  It is caused by an imbalance of cytokinetic in the patients body.  In a normal patient, the amount of gum growth is equal to the amount of gum destruction.  This patient shows what happens when the two are out of sync.  Debris accumulates under the gingival tissue leading to infection and tooth loss. 

There are several drugs that may cause gingival hyperplasia including barbiturates, calcium channel blockers (amlodipine) and cyclosporin.  Some breeds, Collie, Great Dane, Dalmatian and Doberman, are thought to have a genetic predisposition to this condition.  In practice, I see it most commonly in Boxers.  The dog pictured above is a Boxer who was on cyclosporin to control his allergies. 

Treatment involves removing the cause if possible.  In my experience, it takes about a month for the excessive tissue to start to shrink when cyclosporin is removed.  If the cause cannot be removed, then surgical excision is recommended. 

-Hale, Frasier, Focus On: Gingival Hyperplasia, Old Cusp article,

Wild at Heart Helps Endangered Species of Owls

Hidden down a dirt road in Cave Creek, Arizona is a wildlife rehabilitation center that specializes in caring for birds of prey.  Founded and directed by Sam and Bob Fox, this organization is “Dedicated to the conservation and preservation of Arizona’s native wildlife through the rescue and rehabilitation of injured and orphaned birds of prey, relocation of displaced burrowing owls, species recovery programs, educational presentations and habitat enhancement projects.   

When I visited with Bob and Sam last fall, I was struck by the success of Wild at Heart’s Endangered Species Recovery Programs.  In 2007, Arizona Game and Fish documented only six pairs of nesting Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owls in Arizona.  Due to success with Burrowing Owls, Wild at Heart was asked to establish a captive-breeding program program for these tiny owls.  Today, there are sixteen Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owls who reside a Wild at Heart!

Barn Owls are another species whose populations have declined dramatically in the eastern United States.  Owls from Wild at Heart have re-introduced into Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York to re-establish populations of these beautiful birds.


If you would like to learn more about Wild at Heart or make a donation to support their work, please go to  If you are lucky enough to tour their facility, keep an eye out for a Great Horned Owl named Ariel.  She was found at my husband’s office with a fractured wing.  Thanks to the great care she received at Wild at Heart, she survived her injuries and is currently a foster mom for orphaned chicks. 

Source:  Pictures and information used with permission of Wild at Heart, Inc.