Veterinarian Reviewed on March 28, 2009 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
Recently the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a report that stated that nearly 86,629 people in the US visit the emergency room after taking a fall caused by their pets and their belongings. That equals out to be 240 emergency room trips per day, and less than 1% of the 8 million visits for falls for all reasons.
In order to conclude these numbers CDC investigators researched emergency room data from 2001 to 2006 using the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System All Injury Program. This produced a national estimate of 86,629 pet-falls on the basis of 7,456 cases reported during the study period.
The authors of this report were quoted as saying: “The analysis showed that the highest rates of injuries occurred among persons aged >75 years, and the most common diagnosis was fracture,” adding that some of these fractures could be in the hip. “Among older adults, hip fractures can result in serious health consequences, such as long-term functional impairments, nursing home admission, and increased mortality.”
Out of the falls, approximately 1/3 resulted in broken bones, 1/4 resulted in bruises, 1/5 resulted in sprains and a little more than 1/10 resulted in lacerations. Although the highest rate of injury was found in people 75 and older, the largest number of injuries actually occurred in children who were under the age of 14.
However, this report was not aimed at discouraging pet awareness!
“We know that pets have many benefits,” said Judy Stevens, an epidemiologist at CDC’s injury center. “We just want people to be aware that pets and pet items can be a fall hazard and can lead to injuries.”
In fact, the CDC report recommends: “Prevention strategies should focus on increasing public awareness of pets and pet items as fall hazards and of situations that can lead to fall injuries, and reinforcing American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommendations emphasizing obedience training for dogs.”
Between dogs and cats, the biggest cause of the fall related injuries were dogs, causing almost 90% of all falls.
Puppies were the main cause as they were more likely to fall asleep quickly somewhere where their owners do not notice, as well as with older dogs with Alzheimer’s. Therefore, the most common cause of a fall was the owner tripping over a sleeping dog or puppy inside their home, equaling out to 1/3 for all fall related reasons. In total, 62% of all falls occurred at home, whilst 16% happened outside at a park or on the street.
Of all the dog related injuries, 1/4 occurred whilst walking a dog, 3% whilst running away from a dog, one half of 1% occurred whilst trying to break up a dog fight and 1/5 were pulled by the animal.
Regarding falls and injuries associated with cats, approximately 12% involved chasing a cat and in 2/3 of falls, the owner had tripped over their cat. In total, 86% of falls happened inside the home and 17% whilst chasing a cat.
Pet paraphernalia, such as toys, blankets and food dishes, were cited as the cause of about 9% of the falls that occurred at home.
The CDC report also found that women are twice as likely to be injured as men are, and were usually between the ages of 35 and 54 years old.
However, both the CDC report and the nation’s leading veterinarians and emergency room doctors all agree on one thing: That responsible pet ownership far outweighs the possibilities of pet related falls and injuries! According to the CDC, such pet ownership benefits included lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride levels, lower stress levels and a greater opportunity for exercise and socialization for both the pet and their owner.
The CDC also included valuable prevention tips in their report to help pet owners avoid falls and injuries. The most obvious one, according to Judy Stevens: “owner should know how a pet behaves on risky activities such as walks.”
She also stated that obedience training for dogs is vitally essential as it will be able to stop a dog from pulling on their leash as well as stop them from jumping up to greet their owners.
“You can also prevent falls by removing tripping hazards like pet items,” she said.
Keep rooms that house your pet’s toys, bedding and food dishes well lighted, in order to decrease any chances of tripping over your dog’s favorite chew toy.
The flip side to the CDC’s report is that pets also suffer from fractures, broken bones and other injuries as a result of their owners either tripping over them or stepping on their tails and paws.
So, in summary, it is a good idea to enroll your dog in a local obedience class to help curb any unwanted behaviors, prevent your pet’s belongings from being scattered all around your house, keep the area’s where your pet sleeps and where his belongings are kept well lighted, and know where your pets are at all times.
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for 28 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan