WASHINGTON – Federal government researchers Thursday filled in a blank spot on the map of life’s hazards: the part occupied by Spot, Fifi, the leathery chewing pretzel and the water bowl.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that an average of 86,629 Americans visit the emergency room each year after taking a fall caused by pets or their paraphernalia.
That’s the equivalent of 240 ER trips a day, and roughly 1 percent of the 8 million visits for falls of all sorts.
About one-third of the falls broke bones, about one-quarter caused bruises, one-fifth caused sprains, and a little more than one-tenth caused lacerations. About 62 percent of the falls involving dogs occurred at home, and 86 percent of those involving cats.
“We know that pets have many benefits,” said Judy Stevens, an epidemiologist at CDC’s injury center. “We just want people to be aware that pets and pet items can be a fall hazard and can lead to injuries.”
Dog-related falls account for 88 percent of the total; cat-related ones 12 percent. The largest number of injuries occurred in children 14 years old and younger, although the highest rate of injury is in people 75 and older.
Women were more likely to be injured than men; they suffered 68 percent of the falls involving dogs, and 72 percent involving cats.
Exactly how many of the falls occurred when a leashed dog took off after a squirrel, a cat streaked by underfoot, or the water dish spilled and made the kitchen floor slick isn’t known. Nevertheless, the study, in CDC’s Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report, gave a rough sketch of hazardous activities.
About one-quarter of the dog-related falls occurred while walking the animal, about 3 percent while running from it, and one-half of one percent while breaking up a fight. In one-third of falls, a person tripped over the dog, and in one-fifth was pulled by the animal.
About 12 percent of the cat-related injuries involved chasing the animal. In two-thirds of the falls, a person tripped over the cat.