Injured By My Pet: You're Not Alone
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Every year some 86,000 Americans share a common bond I suspect they’d prefer they didn't. They are treated in a medical emergency facility for nonfatal injuries sustained during falls caused by cats and dogs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; maybe someday they’ll add the P) analyzed a study that, for the first time, provided national estimates of fall injuries associated with cats and dogs.
The data are contained in a report from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System All Injury Program (NEISS-AIP), operated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, for the period 2001—2006. This isn’t breaking news, obviously, but it’s the latest data available.
Perhaps now that medical facilities are converting to electronic record keeping, someday someone will be able to coordinate such data with just a few keystrokes and put it instantly right at our fingertips.
While 86,000 sounds like a lot, it actually only represents about 1% of the nation’s 8 million trip and fall injuries treated by emergency departments each year. Of course, if you took that number as strictly a percentage of total dog or cat owners, I’ll bet it would be much higher.
Our dogs, God bless ‘em, are the biggest culprits, causing 88% of the injuries. The most common was fractures (30.7%), next was contusion and abrasions (26.2%), followed by strain/sprain (18.8%), lacerations (12.8%) and internal injuries (4.2%).
“What are the circumstances of these injuries?” you ask. Here it is, straight from the report: “Injuries to the extremities accounted for 51.8% of injuries associated with dogs and 47.6% of injuries associated with cats.
The majority of fall injuries occurred inside or in the immediate environment outside the home. Among falls involving dogs, 61.6% occurred in or around the home and 16.4% in the street or other public place. A location was not specified for 20.3% of cases.
26% of falls involving dogs occurred while persons were walking them, and the most frequent circumstances were falling or tripping over a dog (31.3%) and being pushed or pulled by a dog (21.2%). Falling over a pet item (e.g., a toy or food bowl) accounted for 8.8% of fall injuries. Approximately 38.7% involved other or unknown circumstances.”
Surprisingly enough, injuries were most frequent among people under age 14 and between 35 and 54 years of age. Not surprisingly, fracture rates were highest among people older than 75.
We cat owners don’t usually get tangled up in leashes, but how many times have we tripped over our cats in the dark? My cat, Fluffy, has this annoying habit of lying in the middle of hallways and on staircases.
I rise before the sun (and the wife) each morning, so I walk around mostly in the dark to (A) minimize my carbon footprint and (B) not disturb the boss (and not necessarily in that order). However, if I don’t know where Fluffy is, I don’t walk. I do a shuffle.
Every winter I suffer near electrocution after shuffling across rugs and touching doorknobs, but does Fluffy appreciate that? NOOO. When she’s sitting on the stairs does she move when this 183 lb. hulk bears down on her? NOOO. She didn’t move when I was a 236 lb. hulk, either. Over the years, I have tripped over her a few times. Guess who learned their lesson? Me.
So, with all the other diseases and dangers we have to watch out for, now we have to live with the knowledge that owning a dog or cat can be hazardous to our health. I’ll bet we all agree on this, though: they’re worth it!