When was the last time you fell for a pet? Puppies and kittens, especially, appear to be designed by nature to melt our hearts—and perhaps get us to open our wallets. There is no denying that only the stoniest of hearts can resist the big wet eyes, soft whiskers, and downy fur of a baby animal. But when was the last time you literally fell for a dog or cat?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), many folks are tripping—and falling—over their pets. As you might expect, the problem is more pronounced among the elderly, who may not see, or quickly react to, pets that suddenly appear underfoot.
Some cats, for instance, take delight in getting underfoot while one is negotiating the stairs. It’s probably not that they’re intentionally creating household falling hazards with this behaviour. Rather, it likely has more to do with the desire for attention; to be close to you. Or maybe you’re heading for the food bowl. No hungry cat will want to miss out. But who really knows what goes through the inscrutable mind of a feline? For whatever reason, cats and dogs have been known to get underfoot at inopportune times. And for some folks, that’s a real problem.
Every year more than 21,000 Americans report to Emergency Departments with injuries from falls related to hapless pets in the home, says CDC.“Pets, particularly dogs and cats, can be wonderful companions that provide many health benefits for older adults,” said geriatrician, Dr. Thomas A. Cavalieri. “At the same time, falls area particularly serious health hazard for the elderly. When an older person falls, there’s a one-in-three chance that the result will be a fracture, which could mean an extended period of convalescence or even permanent disability or premature death.”
The good news is that steps can be taken to avoid falls related to pets. Even better news is that elderly people enjoy measurable benefits from living with devoted pets. Or even cats. Dog walking provides clear benefits in terms of reductions in the risk of cardiovascular disease, for example. People who own dogs, which they walk regularly, also tend to be less susceptible to obesity and type 2 diabetes. Just having a pet in the home is linked to lower blood pressure,and reduced stress.
There’s a reason companion “therapy animals” are growing in popularity. Owning and caring fora pet is also linked to lower risks of succumbing to depression, and even Alzheimer’s disease.Pets give us love and affection, and require more or less constant care. Pets keep us on our toes, so to speak. But when they get under our toes, things can get dodgy.
“Some pets…will present a hazard just because they are so attached to their owners,” Dr. Cavalieri warned. “A dog or cat that likes to nap at its owner’s feet can present a tripping hazard, especially for older individuals who have less of the strength and flexibility needed to ‘catch’ themselves when they begin to fall.”
To minimise the risk of falls, consider obedience training for your dog, especially to teach your dog not to jump on visitors, and to walk on a leash.Discourage pets from sleeping on your bed or at your bedside. Make a separate pet bed for your dog in another room.Pick up any pet toys that may be on the floor. And stay safe!
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). "Good Dog/Bad Dog: Geriatrician Notes Dangers Of Pet-Related Falls." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 March 2009.