Pets and the Elderly – What are the Risks?

Pets and the Elderly - What are the risks?

Almost anyone who has owned pets will attest to the joy and companionship that they provide. Especially for seniors, pet ownership has been associated with many physical and emotional benefits. People who own pets frequently have lower blood pressure and pulse rates than those who don’t. They also tend to be more active.

Pet owners in general experience less depression and loneliness, possibly in part because of the unconditional love, affection, and companionship that their animals provide. Pets can also help to create opportunities to socialize and can ease the pain that accompanies the loss of a loved one.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Before you run to the nearest shelter to adopt a pet for yourself or for a loved one in need of companionship, you should also know that along with the benefits come some risk factors worth consideration. Every year, about 21,000 seniors are treated in emergency rooms for falls related to pets, and many of these falls involve fractures which can be life changing for elderly individuals.

If you own a pet (or pets) or are considering adopting or encouraging a loved one to do so, you’ll want to be aware of some of the biggest fall risks associated with pet ownership.

5 Pet-Related Fall Risks

1. Animals underfoot. Most of us have met a few over-friendly cats or dogs who just can’t seem to get enough of rubbing our ankles. As charming as this behavior may be, it presents a real tripping hazard – especially for seniors whose sense of balance is not what it used to be. Smaller pets also spend most of their time well below eye level, and tripping over them as they move around is a real danger. A simple solution to this problem would be to attach a bell to a small dog or cat’s collar so that they can be easily heard as they move from room to room.

2. Chasing a pet. You open the door, and your beloved “indoor” cat bolts. Or your dog has somehow gotten ahold of your favorite slipper and is trying to entice you to play a game of keep away. The gut reaction in situations like these is to pursue the cat before it gets hurt or lost or to capture the dog before it chews your slipper to pieces. Unfortunately, many pet-related falls occur because owners put the safety of their pet (or their slipper) ahead of their own.

3. Dogs who jump. Large dogs are much more likely to knock someone over by jumping up to say hi, but some high energy smaller dogs can still be quite strong and can hit hard. If you or a loved one own a dog who has the tendency to jump, obedience training may help to correct the issue and prevent injury. If you are looking for a dog to adopt, avoid those who jump when they are excited.

4. Falling while walking a pet. Dogs need exercise, and the benefit to this is that dog owners tend to be more active out of necessity. The downside is that many pet owners fall as a result of being pulled by a dog on a leash. Again, this is especially an issue with larger, more powerful dogs. Obedience training may help to teach a dog how to walk on a leash. It may also be helpful to enlist the help of a younger relative or a neighbor who may be willing to either walk the dog alone or accompany the owner and hold the leash. Walking in an area where encountering other dogs is less likely may help to improve some dogs’ behavior while on a leash.

5. Pet paraphernalia. Pet dishes and toys left underfoot can be dangerous. It is important to clean up any spills immediately and to be aware of any balls or chew toys that may be left lying around.

The good news is that most of these risk factors can be greatly reduced simply by being careful and paying attention.  If, after weighing the responsibilities and possible dangers of pet ownership, you decide that the benefits outweigh the dangers, this may be just the kind of companionship that you or your loved one need.

Visit the Davis Community’s Assisted Living in Wilmington NC

If you or loved one are no longer capable of living a safe, independent lifestyle, then call the Davis Community today at 910.686.7195 or simply complete and submit our online information request form. We provide exceptional assisted living in Wilmington NC with a strong and supportive environment where your loved one will feel welcomed and part of an active community. Get to know the difference today – schedule a visit to the Davis Community!

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