Tripping Over Pets Sends Thousands to ER
Injury Rates Highest Among People Over 75
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:
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:
"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.
Comparing Cats and Dogs
Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD, an Atlanta internist and past president of the American College of Physicians, tells WebMD she sees pet-caused injuries quite often.
Dogs, she says, cause more problems to her patients than cats.
"I tell patents to be careful, make sure you walk the dog, not let the dog walk you," she says. "People of all ages can fall and skin knees or hands, but older patients are more likely to have weaker bones due to osteoporosis and suffer fracture if they fall."
Gail Hayes, a spokeswoman for the CDC Injury Center, says dogs may cause more problems when being walked simply because of their size.
"About 19,834 falls resulting in injuries each year happened while people were walking dogs, whereas a very small number of such falls happened while people were walking cats," Hayes tells WebMD in an email. "About 16,137 falls each year happened as a result of being pushed or pulled by dogs," compared to 91 for cats.
Stevens and colleagues caution that the number of pet-related injuries is likely higher than the 87,000 estimated in the study, because many people do not seek help in emergency departments.
The problem isn't insignificant, the researchers say, because 43 million American households own dogs and 37.5 million cats. And nearly 64% of households have more than one pet.
The report also details causes of injuries involving pets, reporting that:
SOURCES: Stevens, J. Journal of Safety Research, manuscript received ahead of print.