Finger fracture, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and shoulder sprain or strain were the three most common injuries related to leash-dependent dog walking among adults treated in U.S. emergency rooms from 2001 to 2020, a new study has found.
The Johns Hopkins University study found that an estimated 422,659 adults sought treatment in U.S. emergency rooms for injuries resulting from leash-dependent dog walking in the aforementioned period.
Notably, women with injuries related to dog walking were 50% more likely than men to sustain a fracture. Older dog walkers were more than three times as likely to experience a fall, more than twice as likely to have a fracture and 60% more likely to sustain a TBI than younger dog walkers.
Across the 20-year study period, the estimated annual incidence of injuries due to leash-dependent dog walking more than quadrupled. The researchers posit that this trend may be due to concurrent rising dog ownership rates and promotion of dog walking to improve fitness.
“Clinicians should be aware of these risks and convey them to patients, especially women and older adults,” says Edward McFarland, the study’s senior author and director of the Division of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
“We encourage clinicians to screen for pet ownership, assess fracture and fall risk, and discuss safe dog walking practices at regular health maintenance visits for these vulnerable groups. Despite our findings, we also strongly encourage people to leash their dogs wherever it is legally required.”