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Dog Walking Is Causing Higher Rate Of ER Visits For Seniors

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Walking the dog is providing older adults daily physical activity, but it is also sending a lot of them to the emergency room.

A new study found that dog walking is increasing the risk of fracture among people who are 65 years old and older. Moreover, the number of accidents related to dog walking seems to be increasing.

Dog Walking As A Cause Of Accidents

The study published in JAMA Surgery on Monday, March 6, reviewed data on hospital emergency room visits across the United States from 2004 to 2017. They estimated that over the past 13 years, there were more than 32,000 patient visits for incidents related to walking a leashed dog among older adults.

The researchers also found that the number of incidents caused by dog walking has more than doubled in 2017. The study revealed that an estimated 1,671 visits to the ER for dog walking-related accidents were recorded in 2004. By 2017, the number ballooned to 4,396.

"Dog walking, which has repeatedly demonstrated social, emotional and physical health benefits, is a popular and frequently recommended activity for many older Americans seeking new ways to stay active," said Kevin Pirrurico, a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania and the lead author of the study.

The researchers added that the rise of incidents in the past couple of years can be attributed to two factors: the number of older adults with dogs has increased and/or physical activity among 65 years old and above is also on the rise.

The study lists fracture in the hip as the most common reason for the visits to the ER. This is concerning because the mortality rate of the injury among older adults is close to 30 percent.

The Risks Of Everyday Injuries Among Older Adults

The researchers clarified that the study does not aim to discourage older Americans to welcome pets into their homes. Experts recommend that adults over the age of 65 participate in daily physical activities to prevent health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

The researchers hope that their findings will make medical professionals consider the risk of injury from everyday actions such as dog walking.

"This study highlights that while there are undoubtedly pros to dog walking, patients' risks for falls must be factored into lifestyle recommendations in an effort to minimize such injuries," explained Pirruccio.

The researchers also noted that their data on dog walking-related injuries might be low. They only considered visits to the emergency rooms and disregards cases wherein the patient refused to go to the hospital or sought help from other avenues.

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