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Pets Cause Thousands of Injuries

When Dogs and Cats Cause Their Owners to Fall, Injuries Can Require a Trip to ER
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WebMD Pet Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 26, 2009 -- Tens of thousands of people trip over their dogs and cats every year, causing broken bones or other nonfatal fall injuries, the CDC says.

Fall injuries serious enough for treatment in emergency rooms averaged nearly 87,000 per year in the U.S. from 2001 to 2006, almost 88% of them caused by dogs, the CDC estimates in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The CDC says its estimates were extrapolated by using U.S. Census Bureau data on the total population and 7,456 actual pet incidents recorded by emergency departments from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance Systems All Injury Program.

It is likely that the estimated number of annual emergency room visits is vastly understated because many people don’t seek treatment after injuring themselves in accidents involving their pets, the CDC says.

The report also says that:

  • Women are 2.1 times more likely than men to be injured because of their pets.
  • Dogs are responsible for 7.5 times as many injuries as cats.
  •  Injuries linked to pets are most common among people 35 to 54 years old and youngsters 14 and under.
  • The highest fracture rate for 2006 was among people 75 and older. About 80% of people hospitalized for injuries related to pets suffered fractures.
  •  Most falls involving cats occurred at home (85.7%), often when people were chasing their felines.

The CDC notes that cats and dogs were associated with about 1% of the estimated fall injuries treated in emergency departments. Most injuries involving dogs occurred while walking the dog. The top circumstances reported for dog-related injuries were "fell or tripped over the dog" (31.3%), and "pushed or pulled by the dog" (21.2%). For cats, the majority cause was "fell or tripped over the cat" (66.4%).

The CDC calls for increased awareness that pets and pet items can cause falls, that some pet activities can lead to injuries from falls, and that obedience training for dogs can help control behaviors that can lead to fall injuries.

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