A Growing Number of People Are Getting Injured While Walking Their Dogs

A new study advises caution when walking your pup

small dog
Can you walk a dog without getting hurt? The answer may surprise you.
Jackson Jost/Unsplash

When you think about everyday household activities that could lead to an injury, what comes to mind? It’s not hard to imagine hurting yourself while fixing things around your home or slipping on a recently-washed floor. But new information reveals that something else has been bringing an increasing number of U.S. residents in to doctors and hospitals: injuries incurred while walking their dogs.

A study published in April by the National Library of Medicine took a closer look at data on emergency room visits incurred by people walking dogs on a leash between 2001 and 2020. Over the course of those years, the study found that almost half a million people (specifically, 422,659) in the U.S. went to emergency rooms after walking a dog. The most common injury was a fractured finger, followed by traumatic brain injuries and sprains or strains of the shoulder.

What’s arguably more alarming than this data is something else gleaned from it: it’s an issue that’s getting worse over time. “The annual incidence increased more than 4-fold during this period,” the study’s authors wrote.

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Writing at The Washington Post, Lindsey Bever took a closer look at the study — and got a better sense of where some of these injuries are coming from. This included interviewing UCLA’s Michael Levine, who was not involved with the study — but who did recognize the phenomena it describes. Levine pointed to incidents where a dog lunges and the walker is unprepared for it as a significant cause for different types of injuries.

Taking a dog out for a walk can be a rewarding experience for human and canine both — but, as this study shows, it’s worth taking steps to be careful when out for a walk lest your dog catch the scent of a squirrel and bolt in its direction.

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