Spending time with man’s best friend can be a dangerous activity for older adults, a new study shows.
Though walking the dog can be a suggested way for the elderly to improve their physical health, the study – published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Surgery – found that the estimated number of fractures associated with walking leashed dogs has grown by 163 percent among patients 65 and older in recent years, from 1,671 in 2004 to 4,396 in 2017.
“Clinicians may play a role in identifying at-risk patients and minimizing fracture risk by advocating for preventative actions, such as obedience training to ensure dogs do not lunge while leashed, or suggesting smaller dog breeds for individuals contemplating ownership,” the study says.
For the study, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a database of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that includes information about injuries that caused people to go to hospital emergency departments, and derived national estimates of fractures tied to dog walking.
Hip injuries accounted for the highest share of fractures they identified, followed by upper arm and wrist fractures. Most of the fractures occurred among women, and more than a quarter – 28.7 percent – required hospital admission.
Notably, falls are the top cause of injuries and death from injury among older Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Adding a dog to the mix could increase that risk, the study suggests.
“For older adults – especially those living alone and with decreased bone mineral density – the risks associated with walking leashed dogs merit consideration,” the report concludes. “Even one such injury could result in a potentially lethal hip fracture, life-long complications or loss of independence.”