Having a dog can be great motivation for daily exercise. Dogs need to go on walks, and walking is good exercise for older adults. Unfortunately, walking their dog can also be hazardous to their health. A new study has found that walking a leashed dog increases the risk of fractures in older adults.
Increasing numbers of seniors are visiting emergency rooms across America for treatment of injuries sustained walking their leashed dog. In the thirteen year period between 2004 and 2017, researchers estimate that more than 32,000 emergency room visits were made by people over the age of 65 for fractures sustained during dog walking. Around 1,671 of the ER visits occurred in 2004 versus 4,396 of those visits occurring in 2017.
Older women who owned dogs in need of walking were especially at risk of associated injury. Females naturally have a higher risk of fractures and bone disease as they age. The researchers found that nearly 79 percent of the fractures in the study occurred in women.
The researchers used data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission for the study. The study looked only at patients who went to an emergency department and excluded injuries that were less severe and not fractures. The results of the study have been published in the medical journal JAMA Surgery.
Older adults are already more prone to fractures due to reduced bone mass as they age, balance issues, and increased fall frequency. Baby boomers are more active than previous generations of seniors and their generation has caused the senior population to grow as a percentage of the U.S. population. As their children grow up and start lives of their own, many are turning to pets as the objects of their care and affection.
It is important for seniors to be aware of the risks before adopting a pet. The authors of the study wrote: “For older adults – especially those living alone and with decreased bone mineral density – the risks associated with walking leashed dogs merit consideration. Even one such injury could result in a potentially lethal hip fracture, lifelong complications, or loss of independence.”