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Healthy Pets

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Tripping Over Pets Sends Thousands to ER

Injury Rates Highest Among People Over 75
WebMD Pet Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 23, 2010 -- Taking your faithful pet dog for a stroll may be good for cardiovascular health, but it can also be dangerous. According to a CDC report, many people get hurt every year when chasing or tripping over their pets -- cats as well as dogs.

The study, published in the Journal of Safety Research, shows that dogs and cats contribute to injuries that send an estimated 87,000 people to emergency rooms every year.

The study also shows that:

  • Dogs are more dangerous to their owners than cats, associated with 7.5 times as many injuries as felines.
  • Women are 2.1 times more likely to be injured by pets than men.
  • Injury rates are highest among people age 75 and over, but pets are a hazard for people of all ages.
  • Fractures and contusions or abrasions are the most common pet-related injuries.
  • 66.4% of falls associated with cats and 31.3% associated with dogs are caused by falling or tripping over the animal.
  • 21.2% of falls linked to dogs were caused by being pushed or pulled.

The statistics come from a study of nonfatal injuries in the U.S. that examined 66 emergency departments between Jan. 1, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2006.

Falls and ER visits suggest the need for more pet-obedience training for dogs, but basic prevention strategies should be implemented to help people reduce their risk of injury when walking Rover or reaching for the cat, says Judy A. Stevens, PhD, a senior epidemiologist for the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

The researchers identified 7,456 cases of pet-caused ER visits, and estimated an average of 86,629 fall injuries associated with cats and dogs occur in the U.S. every year.

The researchers found that:

  • Injuries are most frequent among children up to age 14, and adults between 35 and 54.
  • Fall rates increase steadily with age, after people get past the 15-24 age group.
  • The highest fracture rates occur among people 75 to 84.
  • Among patients hospitalized due to accidents with their pets, 79.9% were for fractures.
  • Injuries to extremities accounted for 51.8% of injuries with dogs and 47.6% with cats.
  • Among falls caused by dogs, 61.6% occurred in or around the home, and 16.4% in the street or another public place.
  • 26% of falls involving dogs occurred while people were walking them, and the most frequent circumstances were falling or tripping over a pooch (31.3%) and being pushed or pulled by one (21.2%).
  • 8.8% of injuries were caused by people falling over a pet toy or food bowl.

"The report provides the first national estimates of fall injuries associated with cats and dogs and supports anecdotal evidence that pets can present a fall hazard," the researchers write. The study also shows that walking dogs and chasing pets cause the greatest number of injuries.

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