Having a dog has long been touted as a health benefit for older adults. Dogs provide companionship and meeting their exercise needs helped seniors stay more active. But new research shows seniors face dangers walking dogs.
A study by the University of Pennsylvania shows dog walking causes injuries among people 60 years and older. Due to decreased metabolism, even a small fall or a wrong step could be fatal for older adults.
Hazards seniors face when walking dogs
Although older adults might want to prove to everyone that they still plenty of energy, it’s crucial they take precautions when walking their dogs.
Older adults love pets because they are they make the perfect companions especially when their families are gone or live far away.
Taking care of a pooch keeps an older adult occupied and healthy, although studies show that walking four-legged friends for seniors can cause them to end up in the hospital.
According to new research, women are more likely to be injured when walking their dogs chiefly because they tend to have weaker bones. Hip fractures are the most common injury. Hip fractures can cause disability and even lead to death.
But even broken arms can be difficult and take a long time to heal.
Pulling on leashes
Dogs help people become more social, but ironically that can increase the dangers seniors face walking dogs.
When seniors walk with other people and multiple dogs, that can make it more difficult to control the dogs and keep up with their pace.
That’s why it’s critical for dog owners of any age to make sure they maintain control when walking their dogs. Owners also should consider using no-pull dog harnesses to keep their dogs moving at a reasonable pace.
Walking dogs, especially large, strong breeds such as the Australian bulldog should be done cautiously and never using a retractable leash, which encourages dogs to pull and can cause burns and other injuries to both people and dogs.
Walking two dogs using a double leash can be even more dangerous if the pooches are not trained and if they vary in size.
The safest option, with well-trained dogs, is to walk in an area where it’s safe to walk with your dog off leash.
Walking in the rain
Walking dogs in wet or cold weather can be hazardous to both the human and the animal.
Elderly people also risk getting heart attacks during the winter. The drop in temperature causes blood vessels to constrict. It also gets more difficult to adjust your body temperature as you age.
Seniors should take precautions or avoid walking their dogs in the rain to prevent catching colds or the flu, or worse, hypothermia.
Rain also creates slippery surfaces that can increase the risk of slips or falls. Older adults with bone mineral deficiency who live alone could suffer severe consequences if they tried walking dogs and became injured.
Older dogs also are more likely to slide on slick surfaces, which can cause them to pull or strain muscles.
During cold, wet weather, consider finding indoor exercise alternatives.
Walking dogs in summer
Summer is a great time to do fun activities, however, walking dogs in heat also can pose dangers for both you and your dog.
In addition to potential slips and falls, you also risk sunburn or heatstroke.
Avoid walking during the hottest time of the day, bring along water for both you and your dog, and wear sunscreen.
Older adults thinking about getting a dog to help keep fit, need to consider and evaluate the risks seniors face walking dogs. If you decide to get a dog, be sure to either adopt one who is trained or work immediately to train your dog. If you already have a dog that pulls on the leash when you walk, break that habit now with training.
Kaya Johnson is a freelance writer from Colorado who is a fan of pets. She likes to walk in the park with her dog Felsi, help animals and the environment. She also writes for allpetsexpert.com.