Perks and Pit'falls' of Owning a Dog

Perks and Pit'falls' of Owning a Dog

How do you turn back the hands of time? Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a $99.95 time-machine available anytime soon, so you’re next best choice is to get a dog.

Why? A study suggests that dog owners over the age of 65 can turn back the clock by as much as 10 years. Here are a few ways your furry friend may help, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention leaving site icon (CDC):

  • Prevent depression
  • Avoid loneliness
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Calm heart rates

In addition, the simple act of walking your dog several times a day can lead to increased physical exercise and the potential to socialize with dog owners and others along the way. That’s consistent with a study at the University of St. Andrews leaving site icon in Scotland which found that dog owners over the age of 65:

  • Had the same activity levels equal to people 10 years younger
  • Showed much lower levels of depression and anxiety
  • On average, were 12% more active than people without a dog

So what are the potential downsides? Having a dog, or for that matter any four-legged animal like a cat in the house, can lead to an increased risk of accidents.

Don't Trip Over Fido!

The CDC leaving site icon found that in a year, about 86,000 Americans went to the ER because of a fall linked to a pet.  And these were mostly from dogs. 

If you’re thinking about getting a dog, or if you already have a furry companion, here are a few tips to help reduce your risk of falling:

  • Keep your dog’s food bowls and toys out of walking paths in your house.
  • Place a bell on your dog’s collar so you know when your pet is nearby.
  • Use two hands to hold the leash (for support) when walking your dog .
  • If your dog is big and likes to jump on you, try pet obedience classes so you don’t get knocked over.
When Does a Fall Need Medical Attention?

Any fall should be taken seriously. For older adults, according to the CDC, falls are the number one cause of fractures, hospital admissions and injury deaths. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules for knowing when to get care after a fall, but here are some things to think about:

  • How hard did you fall? What part of the body did you fall on?
  • Were you able to get up without help?
  • How do you feel? Is there bruising or bleeding?

If there is pain or bleeding that doesn't stop right away, you should call 911.

Lastly, make sure you tell your doctor about any falls at your next visit. Let your provider know if you felt faint or dizzy before the fall.

Sources: About Pets & People, leaving site icon 2019; Nonfatal Fall-Related Injuries Associated with Dogs and Cats (2009), leaving site icon Older Adult Fall Prevention, leaving site icon 2021; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Ten Years Younger, leaving site icon University of St. Andrews, 2014.
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Originally published 11/22/2016; Revised 2019, 2021