Patrick F. EmersonPatrick Fording Emerson
Orlando Health
MD – Surgery of the Hand

Taking your dog on regular walks is good for your pooch – and for you, too. Walking doesn’t only provide “man’s best friend” some outdoor time, it also decreases the risk for obesity, high blood pressure, and heart-related conditions for both of you.

But it’s not uncommon to suffer an injury while being out and about with your furry friend. A study by JAMA Surgery revealed that dog-walking increases the risk of fractures in older American adults.

Being prepared and following a few safety suggestions before heading outside can decrease these risks.

What Can Go Wrong?
Dogs are easily distracted. When something catches your dog’s attention and they make a break for it, you could end up getting hurt.

From the way you grip a leash to the shoes you wear, you could seriously injure yourself if you aren’t prepared. Some common dog-walking injuries include:

● Wrist, hip, elbow, and finger fractures, including cracked or broken bones

● Rotator cuff tears, which affect the tissues that connect muscle to bone in the shoulder

● Proximal humerus fracture, or injury of the humerus bone in the shoulder joint

Tips for Safer Dog Walking
Doctors see patients who fall because of being dragged by their distracted dog and then suffer fractures or sprains when they try to break their fall with their hands. A few tips can help.

Never wrap your leash around your wrist or fingers. If your dog suddenly moves at a faster speed, you’ll struggle to detach yourself. This could also result in a bad fall or a finger or wrist sprain.

instead, hold the leash in the palm of your hand like you would if you were holding a bat or golf club. This will give you more control of your dog’s movement, and you’ll be able to let go more easily if necessary.

Choose a shorter leash. A long or retractable leash allows your dog to yank the leash quickly and gain speed. This means you could easily be dragged or fall. A shorter leash prevents that momentum.

Wear the right shoes. It may be tempting to wear your flip-flops while you’re strolling. But shoes without a grip could lead to injury, such as a sprain – especially if you’re walking on uneven sidewalks or cracked concrete. Wear sneakers or other walking shoes. If you’ll be walking in muddy areas, opt for sturdy boots to protect your ankles.

Distracted Dog? Keep Calm and Walk On
If your dog does something unexpected, such as running ahead of you into traffic or chasing another animal, think fast but weigh your options.

For example, if you’re walking in your neighborhood, it may be safe enough for you to let go of the leash and catch up. If your dog is running into oncoming traffic, assess the circumstance and do what’s best to prevent injury to yourself and your dog.

Think You Hurt Yourself?
If you have a slight sprain without a fracture, rest your injury for two to three days before visiting your doctor. However, if it doesn’t improve significantly, have it checked out.

If you have excruciating pain, can’t lift your arm, move your fingers or put weight on the injured arm or wrist, see your doctor immediately. Other warning signs include not being able to rotate your wrist, swelling and pain to the touch. This could indicate a fracture or serious sprain that would need to be treated by an orthopedic surgeon.