Dogs are often seen as man's best friend, and for many people, their four-legged companion is an essential part of their lives. However, a new study has highlighted the potential dangers of dog walking, particularly when using a lead. The research, which analyzed hospitalization data over a period of 20 years, found that traumatic brain injury (TBI) was one of the most common injuries caused by leashed dog walking.
The study revealed that of the 422,659 hospitalizations related to leashed dog walking over the two-decade period, the most common injuries were finger fractures, TBI, and shoulder sprains. These injuries can be particularly serious for older adults, as the study also found that women and all adults aged 65 and older were more likely to sustain serious injuries when walking a dog.
The findings have prompted experts to call for pet owners to be aware of the potential risks associated with leashed dog walking. While the study's authors emphasized the importance of leashing dogs, they also urged people to be mindful of the possibility of accidents with leads.
TBI, as identified in the study, encompasses head injuries such as brain contusions, epidural hematomas, and subdural hematomas. These injuries can have severe long-term effects on an individual's health and well-being, and the study's authors have stressed the need for clinicians to be aware of the risks and to convey them to patients, particularly women and older adults.
The study's senior author, Edward McFarland, who is also the director of the Division of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery at Johns Hopkins Medicine, emphasized the importance of health care providers screening for pet ownership, assessing fall and fracture risk, and discussing safe dog walking practices with vulnerable groups.
While the study did not examine the specific causes of leashed dog walking injuries, experts have suggested that they may be linked to the use of inappropriate leads, poor training, or the dog's behavior. This research highlights the need for pet owners to take appropriate precautions when walking their dogs, including using appropriate leads and muzzles, seeking professional dog training, and being aware of their dog's behavior and any potential triggers.