It all happens so innocently. Half asleep one night, you awaken to find your throat parched. Heading toward the kitchen for a glass of water, shuffling your feet as you walk, you navigate the hall with your eyes barely open and round the corner toward the kitchen.
Next thing you know, you’re wide awake on the floor in a tangle of fur and slippers, your puppy is whimpering beside you—and you don’t even know which way is up.
You’ve just taken the trip of a lifetime, without ever leaving home. You can only hope both you and your pet are still in one piece.
Our pets represent a very real tripping hazard not many dog and cat owners are even aware of.
According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), scenes like the one above play themselves out 240 times a day in homes across America, landing more than 86,000 people in emergency rooms each year.
Injuries range from stubbed toes to pulled muscles, broken bones and, in extreme cases, longer-lasting injuries requiring physical therapy and rehabilitation.
Dogs get the gold medal for causing 88 percent of such accidents, with the silver going to cats at 12 percent.
For those with good health insurance, the costs that result may be relatively minor. But for those without the right medical coverage, the damage may be both physical and financial, leading to piles of medical bills, lost productivity, and even a lost home or job.
Who pays the price?
So who pays the price when your miniature schnauzer curls up on the floor at the top of the stairs; your terrier misbehaves at the end of his leash during an afternoon walk, or your frightened tabby sprints through the house at breakneck speed, taking down anyone in its path?
Mostly children and middle-aged adults. But the elderly are at the biggest risk of getting hurt because their bones are more likely to break—and they often lack the balance, peripheral vision and mobility needed to avoid a serious spill.
Women suffer too, and are more than two times more likely to trip over their pets than men. No one is sure why, but this may be due to the fact that men, as the stronger sex, can often react with brute strength, when necessary, to avoid a near mishap with the family pet.
Not surprisingly, doctors see many fractures of the ankle and wrist due to pet-related falls. When it comes to the elderly, hip fractures are also common and can lead to other, long term health complications.
Protecting yourself and your family
To cut the risk of tripping over your pet, or finding yourself facedown on the pavement due to an overexcited one, we recommend taking these steps to help keep everyone safe:
- Consider obedience training. Training a dog correctly keeps you in control and teaches the animal to respond based on your commands, rather than its own emotions.
- Provide a safe and secure place for your pet to snooze—and insist that he use it. Knowing where your pet is sleeping can help you avoid tripping over or stepping on him.
- Be mindful of your surroundings. This may prevent an accident waiting to happen.
- Illuminate dark hallways, nooks and crannies animals may find warm and inviting with nightlights or other dim lighting.
- Walk one dog at a time. Animals react with a “mob mentality” in threatening situations. Avoid this complication by keeping things one-on-one.
Besides the hours of pure pleasure and unconditional love, pets help lower our blood pressure and stress levels and give us more opportunities for exercise and socialization.
So if you’re afraid of tripping over your pet, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Do what you can to prevent pet-related tripping and teach your children to do the same. You’ll help avoid injury, unnecessary health care expense—and maybe an unpleasant trip to the emergency room.