How we fall for our four-footed family members. Literally. An estimated 86,000 people suffer nonfatal injuries due to tripping over a cat or dog — usually a pooch, according to a new analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Emergency room docs were well aware of this general trend. They just weren’t able to quantify it. So CDC scientists pored over data in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System All Injury Program (quite a mouthful, that). They identified around 7,450 recorded cases of pet-underfoot hospital visits between 2001 and 2006.

Based on the type, number and location of hospitals that feed into this database, the researchers were able to produce what they believe is a nationally representative estimate of pet-induced falls. Which is that some 30 out of every 100,000 Americans annually fall prey to pets under their feet. Roughly 90 percent of these injuries trace to dogs and women are twice as likely as men to fall over bowser. Details appear in CDC’s March 27 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Actually, not all of the injured necessarily fell over their pet. Almost 12 percent fell while chasing their pet. I’m probably destined to become one of those statistics. My dachshund loves to play keep-away, encouraging me to chase him around tables and down halls. And more than once this ever-hungry pup has been so intent on studying what I’m preparing in the kitchen that he’s tripped me up — and then had the nerve to complain about my clumsiness.

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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