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Look Out For Paws and Claws: Pets Can Cause Serious Falls

October 26, 2014

While there is great emotional and cognitive benefit for an elderly person to have a loving pet providing hours of mental and physical stimulation everyday, we have to remember that sometimes our dogs and cats can find their way under foot and into trouble. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 21,000 elderly Americans are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year for falls associated with their four legged friends, and their injuries account for nearly one-fourth of all the fractures, contusions, sprains, and lacerations caused by falls attributed to cats and dogs overall.

"Pets, particularly dogs and cats, can be wonderful companions that provide many health benefits for older adults," said Dr. Thomas A. Cavalieri, a geriatrician and the dean of the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine. "At the same time, falls are a 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."

Dr. Cavalieri advises those who look after an elderly person with a pet to follow these steps to help safeguard against unfortunate accidents:
Make sure pets – especially dogs – are obedience trained to walk calmly on a leash and to not jump on visitors.
Discourage pets from lying next to beds at night or at the foot of chairs.
Don't leave pet toys in the middle of the floor.
If you have an older friend or relative with a dog, offer to go along on walks so that you can handle the leash.
The full CDC report can be found at this link: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5811a1

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