Falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries in the United States. This study assessed the prevalence of fall injuries associated with cats and dogs in the United States and describes the types of injuries sustained, the location, activity, and circumstances under which they occurred.
Data were from a nationally representative sample of emergency department visits from January 1, 2001 to December 31, 2006, available through the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System All Injury Program (NEISS-AIP).
Based on 7,456 cases, an estimated 86,629 fall injuries each year were associated with cats and dogs, for an injury rate of 29.7. There were 7.5 times as many injuries involving dogs as cats and females were 2.1 times more likely to be injured than males. Injury rates were highest among people aged >/=75, but pets were a fall hazard for all ages. Fractures and contusions or abrasions were the most common injuries; the highest rates were for injuries to the extremities. About 66.4% of falls associated with cats and 31.3 % of falls associated with dogs were caused by falling or tripping over the pet. An additional 21.2% of falls related to dogs were caused by being pushed or pulled.
Although pets were associated with fall injuries, this risk can be reduced by increasing public awareness about situations that can lead to falls, such as dog-walking and chasing pets, and by calling attention to the importance of obedience training for dogs to minimize hazardous behaviors such as pulling and pushing.
Fall injuries represent a burden to individuals, our society and our health care system. Increasing public awareness and implementing basic prevention strategies can help people of all ages enjoy their pets, reduce their chances of experiencing pet-related falls, and lessen the impact of fall injuries on our health care system.