Doctors have warned that thousands of dog owners are struggling with serious hand injuries all because they’re holding dog leads wrong.
Surgeons at the British Society for Surgery of the Hand reported that they always have to treat dislocated fingers, lacerations, and fractures because dog owners injure themselves while walking their pets.
Royal Cornwall Hospital NHS Trust alone treated 30 serious hand injuries caused by collar or dog lead misuse in only one year, according to the society. They believe thousands of other dog owners are having similar experiences.
In the UK, 1 in 4 of the adult population has a dog.
“Dogs have a wide range of health benefits for their owners, including reducing stress and helping people stay active,” said Rebecca Dunlop, a consultant surgeon from the British Society for Surgery of the Hand.
“But having seen many serious injuries caused by dog leads and collars, I want dog lovers to be aware of the simple steps they can take to avoid severe damage to their hand.
“Hand injuries can be very costly for patients and the NHS – especially through time off work and medical costs.
“We want to ensure that dog owners are able to carry on enjoying time with their dogs without risking damage to their hand and time in hospital.”
The sudden movement of the dog after their owners had already wrapped the lead around their fingers, hand or wrist is often the causes of injuries.
“One particularly common injury caused by dog collars and leads is spiral fractures of the finger bones, which often need an operation to fix,” said Mrs. Dunlop.
“These types of painful accidents can leave the patient with stiffness and swelling in their hand – even with expert medical care, they can cause long-term stiffness and limit people’s use of their hand.
“Another severe and painful injury we see is friction burns and tissue loss caused by abrasions from the dog’s collar. This can leave people with scars or even a shortened finger.
“Long-term hand damage can also be caused when people dislocate their fingers by hooking them under their dogs collar before the dog lurches or makes a sudden movement.
“Those who do injure themselves often have to take time off work, meaning a loss of earnings combined with the discomfort and disruption of the injury itself.
“Patients with more serious injuries tend to be off work for up to six weeks, and may need rehabilitation for a year or more after the initial surgery. Even more minor hand injuries may mean hand therapy for up to six months.
“These painful and potentially debilitating hand injuries are easy to prevent by using dog leads and collars in the right way, which is why we want all dog lovers to take care.”
The hand specialist at Duchy Hospital said owners should not hook their fingers under their dog’s collars. They should also use a harness or collar with a grab handle. Consider using retractable leads instead of winding a lead around your fingers or hand.
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