Dog-walking injuries rise but overall risk very low, review finds

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When walking dogs, be mindful of safety for people and pets alike

(SCHAUMBURG, Illinois) April 5, 2024—Dog-walking injuries over the past two decades appear to have increased and women over 65 are most at risk of sustaining a serious injury, but the overall risk remains very low, according to an article published today in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

"Our data analysis shows that accidents have increased roughly 2.6-fold between 2004 and 2017, but the likelihood of getting injured while dog walking remains very low," according to the article co-authored by veterinarian Dr. Rodrigo Rosa, a practitioner in Columbia, SC, and physician Dr. Richard E. Buckley, a professor of orthopedic trauma at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

A review of eight academic studies written during the last two decades indicates that the most common causes of injury are dogs pulling on leashes, which can result in tripping or tangling.

"While most injuries are minor and treatable, others may lead to significant morbidity or even mortality," the authors noted.

And it's not only people who are at risk – dog-walkers need to be aware of possible injury to their canine companions while on the leash.

"The health impact on dogs caused by inappropriate leash-walking has received little attention," the authors wrote. "Leash-pulling, for example, has been shown to increase the risk of permanent tracheal, laryngeal, esophageal, and ophthalmic damage in dogs. This might be particularly important to brachycephalic breeds like French Bulldogs and Pugs, which have gained popularity in the last few years."

The researchers noted there is a general lack of information regarding dog size, breed, training status, the type of leash used at the time of injury, and the role each factor may have in cases of injuries. As it is impractical for that information to be collected by staff at busy hospital emergency departments when treating people injured while walking dogs, the authors suggest that veterinarians work with their clients on prevention strategies.

"This [review] highlights the importance of the veterinary team as educators of pet owners when it comes to ... prevention of leash-related injuries," the article said.

About the AVMA

Serving more than 105,000 member veterinarians, the AVMA is the nation's leading representative of the veterinary profession, dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of animals, humans and the environment. Founded in 1863 and with members in every U.S. state and territory and more than 60 countries, the AVMA is one of the largest veterinary medical organizations in the world. Informed by our members' unique scientific training and clinical knowledge, the AVMA supports the crucial work of veterinarians and advocates for policies that advance the practice of veterinary medicine and improve animal and human health.