Pets are great companions, and some studies indicate that owning one may lengthen your life. But be careful they don’t land you in the hospital. An average of 240 people are treated in emergency departments every day for injuries from falls involving dogs or cats.
Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries in the United States. In 2006, nearly 8 million persons were treated in emergency departments (EDs) for fall injuries.
A review of data by the CDC found that an estimated average of 86,629 of fall injuries treated in EDs each year were associated with cats and dogs. Moreover, the actual number of injuries likely was underestimated because the data did not include injuries that did not receive medical attention, or were treated in physician offices or other outpatient settings.
The most common injuries and the highest injury rates were for fractures and contusions/abrasions. Females were more than twice as likely to be injured as males. Injuries were most frequent among persons aged 0-14 years and 35-54 years, but the highest fracture rates occurred among persons aged 75-84 years and over 85 years.
The majority of fall injuries occurred inside or in the immediate environment outside the home. Nearly 88% of injuries were associated with dogs. Twenty-six percent of falls involving dogs occurred while persons were walking them, and the most frequent circumstances were falling or tripping over a dog (31.3%) and being pushed or pulled by a dog (21.2%). Falling over a pet item (e.g., a toy or food bowl) accounted for 8.8% of fall injuries.
The CDC noted that dog and cat ownership is increasing in the United States in concert with a rising population of older persons, in whom injuries might have the greatest health consequences.
The CDC encouraged obedience training for dogs to minimize behaviors associated with falls (e.g., pushing or pulling). Learn the ASPCA’s recommendations here.
The full Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study is published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).