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? One study suggests that dog owners over the age of 65 can turn back the clock as much as 10 years.

A furry friend can help:

  • Fend off depression
  • Fight loneliness
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce heart rate

The simple act of walking your dog several times a day boosts your activity level and adds exercise into your routine. Just as important, it offers a chance to socialize with dog owners and others along the way. A study by the University of St. Andrews leaving site icon in Scotland reported that dog owners over the age of 65:

  • Match the activity levels of people 10 years younger
  • Have much lower levels of depression and anxiety
  • Are 12% more active than people without a dog
What’s the Downside?

For one, having a dog or any four-legged animal in the house leads to a greater risk for accidents.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that about 86,000 Americans go to the ER each year due to a fall linked to a pet — mostly dogs.

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

  1. Place food and water bowls out of your path.
  2. Watch for wet floors around the water bowl.
  3. Keep pet toys picked up and out your path.
  4. Train your dog to walk well on a leash and not jump on you.
When Does a Fall Need Medical Attention?

Any fall should be taken seriously. Falls in older adults are the number one cause of fractures, hospital admissions and injury-related deaths. See a care provider if you:

  • Fell on a hard surface like cement
  • Can’t get up without help
  • Are bruised or bleeding
  • Feel dizzy or confused
  • Take blood thinners
  • Have pain that isn’t eased by over-the-counter medicines

Remember to tell your doctor about any fall, and if you felt faint or dizzy before the fall.

Sources: About Pets & People, leaving site icon 2023; Nonfatal Fall-Related Injuries Associated with Dogs and Cats, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009; Older Adult Fall Prevention, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023; Ten Years Younger, leaving site icon University of St. Andrews, 2014
Important Plan Information

Originally published 11/22/2016; Revised 2019, 2021, 2024