Dog-Related Falls Not Just About Accidents While Walking Pets on Leashes

Most dog-related tumbles occur right in the home.


It’s logical to assume that more people fall while walking their dogs in the winter than during other seasons because of the hazards of slipping on snow and ice. But the majority of dog-related falls that cause injuries serious enough to send people to the hospital do not occur outdoors with people getting yanked off their feet when attached by a leash to a strong dog who wants to go too fast. Rather, they occur inside or right outside the home. People accidentally trip over their dog while their pet is lying on the floor, or they trip as the dog walks in front of them. They may be carrying a pile of laundry or something else and lose the line of vision that would alert them to the dog’s presence.

People also trip and fall over their dog’s rubber bones, stuffed animals, and whatnot. Indeed, a number of years ago researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that almost 9 percent of the estimated 76,000 annual dog-related falls that send people to hospital emergency rooms annually result from tripping over a toy or food bowl.

The estimation of 76,000 might be just the tip of the iceberg. Many people go not to hospital emergency departments but to urgent care centers. And many don’t go anywhere at all and just nurse an injury on their own.

The most common injuries

The most common dog-falling injuries seen in hospital emergency rooms are bone fractures and contusions/abrasions. There are also sprains, strains, and internal injuries.

You might automatically assume that old people are the most likely to fall because of their pet, but that’s not true. Overall, emergency department injuries are most common in children through age 14 and adults ages 35 to 54. When it comes to stage of life, falling over your dog is an equal-opportunity hazard.

That said, the highest fracture rates are in people over age 75. They often fracture not a bone in their ankle or some other part of their leg but in their wrist as they try to break a fall with it.

And falls to elderly are often the most concerning for other reasons, as well. For instance, if an older person falls because of a dog and hits her head (women are more than twice as likely to get hurt as men), a CT scan might often be ordered even if the injury seems relatively minor. That’s because older people are more likely to develop brain hemorrhages. As we age, our brains shrink, leaving more room for the brain to get jostled about in a fall and therefore more opportunity for the tearing of veins that cause subdural hematomas —  bleeding in the space between the skull and the brain itself.

Tips for remaining upright

Here are some ways to reduce the risk of falling because of your dog.

  • Train your dog not to pull you when on leash. Adjusting him to a harness rather than a collar around his neck will also give you more control if he starts to try to move more quickly than is comfortable for you or move in a direction that could throw you off kilter.
  • Keep food and water bowls near walls rather than in traffic “lanes” that you frequently traverse.
  • Don’t try to step over a dog, especially a larger one. You can lose your balance. Or the dog can move while you are maneuvering, literally tripping you up. It’s safer to walk around your pet or ask him to move.
  • Make sure the floors are picked up of your dog’s toys once he has finished playing with them.
  • Keep floors well lit, especially at night. It makes it easier to know if the dog is in front of you as you move about.
  • If you are frail to start with, think about making your next dog a smaller one who will be less able to cause a falling mishap if he pulls on the leash.


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