What you should pay attention to when walking your dog

Because of his joy and need for socialization, he can pull the strings with great force.

A dog is man’s best friend and walking with him is a balm for the soul and body as it provides many and important benefits. However, animal guardians should be especially careful because there is a risk of injury if the dog is too lively.

More recent research on the subject shows that dogs are often off leash in their joy and need for socialization. When their guardians are surprised, injuries to the upper limbs or even falls can occur.

According to a recent study by Johns Hopkins University, women and people over 40 are the most vulnerable groups. In addition, most injuries occur on the fingers, head and shoulders.

“Walking is recommended by doctors of all specialties because it is an exercise that improves physical condition with minimal burden and risk,” says orthopedic surgeon Dr. Panagiotis Pantos, director of the Upper Extremity Orthopedic Clinic of the Athens Medical Center.

Its benefits are many and important, he continues. Among other things, it strengthens muscles and keeps bones strong, preventing injuries, falls and fractures. However, not many people incorporate systematic walking into their lives, and a dog is a powerful motivator for many.

Benefits and risks

A dog should be walked two or three times a day. In this way, people’s sports also increase. Studies have shown that taking care of a dog protects against diseases such as obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

It also relieves pain caused by osteoarthritis, a condition common in people over 40 years of age. In fact, the benefits of daily dog ​​walking are especially important for seniors.

However, this exercise carries some risks. The frequency and severity of these risks is reflected in a new study based on an analysis of related injuries among US adults from 2001 to 2020.

New findings published in the medical journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. According to calculations by Johns Hopkins scientists, 422,659 people were injured while walking their dogs in those years.


The chance of a dog unknowingly injuring a guardian has increased significantly over time. Annual injuries have quadrupled. In the early 2000s, the average was 7,282. Now they have reached 32,036 people a year.

Most of the injured (75%) are women. 47% of the injured were between 40-64 years old (average age: 53 years).

The three most common injuries were finger fractures, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and sprains/damage to shoulder structures. Most injuries occurred as a result of falls. These people pulled the dog’s leash, wandered or stumbled.

The risk of hip fracture is also increased in the elderly and women over the age of 65. On the other hand, compared to younger people, older dog owners who walk them on a leash:

  • It is more than three times more likely to fall
  • He suffers twice as much from a fracture
  • 60% more suffer brain injuries

Shoulder rotator cuff injury

“The number of people who get injured while walking a dog is not insignificant,” emphasizes Mr. Pantos. “Most injuries are mild and easily treated. But some can cause serious illness.”

The most common shoulder injury is to the rotator cuff when the dog pulls hard on the leash. It is a structure consisting of four muscles:

  • Hypericum
  • Hypocanthium
  • Small circuit
  • Shoulder blade

These muscles together with their tendons hold the upper arm to the shoulder blade. Falling and leaning on an outstretched arm (the position the upper limb assumes when holding the lead of a “live” dog) are the most common causes of partial or complete rupture of these tendons.

The main characteristic of an injury is pain. It may be mild at first and manifest itself only during movement. However, it can get progressively worse and eventually become uncomfortable even at rest. This pain complicates the patients’ daily life and limits the activities they can do.

Treatment depends on the severity of the damage. Partial-thickness tears can be treated conservatively with physical therapy, muscle strengthening, and analgesics.

If these measures do not work as expected, or if the tear reaches full thickness, surgical repair is chosen. This is done arthroscopically through very small incisions, which significantly reduces post-operative pain.

Other problems

It can also be caused by the dog pulling hard on the leash tendonitis in the forearm or thumb. Tendonitis is a chronic injury. This is due to the poor placement of the strap around the wrist, forcing the projection of resistance into unusual hand positions.

The development of inflammation is more common in people who do not have enough flexibility and strength in the joint and forearm. And in this case, treatment is carried out conservatively or surgically, depending on the degree of symptoms.

The broken from the bones it is the most likely injury when the dog is strong and pulls the owner violently. They are almost always caused by a fall. However, in those with severe osteoporosis, they can also occur where the belt presses hard on the bone.

Toe and hip fractures are more likely, according to new research. However, in theory, a fracture of any bone of the upper and lower limbs and pelvis can occur.

Fractures always require immediate treatment. It depends on many parameters related to both the trauma and the general health of the patient.

How to protect yourself

The risks mentioned above should not be an obstacle to adopting a dog. And don’t walk your dog.

What you need to do is to take some precautions to prevent your dog from unintentionally injuring you. Mr. Pantos recommends that you do the following:

  • Avoid tying the leash around your wrist and/or fingers
  • Walk with proper posture to minimize pressure on your upper body
  • Do exercises to strengthen the muscles of your arms, shoulders and the rest of your body
  • Train your dog to reduce the risk of sudden and violent arm extension and shoulder sprains

“Women and the elderly should choose dogs of a size and strength they can handle and use a short leash to facilitate control and prevent falls,” the expert concludes.

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