Pet Talk: Falling for the holidays — accident-proofing your home

From the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University

As family members of all ages come into town for the holidays, safety is always something to be kept in mind. Although you’re probably already making sure that children aren’t running through the kitchen or touching the hot stove, you should also be sure that animals are kept under control and cleared from the walking path, especially for the safety of your elderly relatives.

A study published in the Journal of Safety Research reports that more than 87,000 people are treated in emergency rooms each year as a result of falls associated with their pet dogs and cats, and the highest percentage is among those 75 years of age and older.

Elderly people should be very cautious around young and poorly trained pets,” said Dr. James Barr, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Injuries can result from jumping up on the elderly owner and knocking them over, which can be pure accident.”

Tripping over pet toys and getting tangled in leashes are other common causes of accidental injury. Some pets also have a habit of lying in frequently traveled hallways or doorways, causing someone to trip if the animal is unseen.

However, if you consider your pets to be part of the family, you’ll want to include them in your holiday celebrations. Fido and Fluffy can still join in on the family fun, as long as you take a few precautionary measures to ensure the safety of those around them.

Prior to the arrival of any guests, be sure to clear the floors and stairs of miscellaneous pet toys or objects, and place any food and water bowls out of the direct path. Your pet will likely be happy to give up their favorite chew toy if it means being able to interact with all of the new people.

Also, biting and scratching behavior can be a potential problem for those with compromised immune systems and fragile skin,” said Dr. Barr. Be sure that your pet is comfortable around visitors to reduce the likelihood of lashing out or even jumping on them out of excitement.

Although pets want to be around us constantly, especially when we’re cooking in the kitchen, this can often be very dangerous. If possible, keep them out of the kitchen while you’re cooking and at meal times to avoid accidental injury. This may mean letting them out into the backyard or putting them in their kennel temporarily.

Even if Fido is trained and well behaved, the excitements of having visitors may cause him to jump or run excessively, posing as a potential hazard to children or elderly family members. You should use your best judgment in deciding whether it is safe to have your pet around family members and certain holiday traditions.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed online at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

Posted Nov. 20, 2014

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