Surgeons warn of injury risk from holding dog lead incorrectly

Thousands of dog owners across the UK may be suffering serious hand injuries caused by dog leads and collars, surgeons have warned.

The British Society for Surgery of the Hand said that one hospital alone, the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, saw 30 serious hand injuries caused by "dog lead or collar misuse" in just one year.

These injuries were largely caused by the sudden movement of a dog after owners had wrapped the lead around their wrist, hand or fingers, or hooked their fingers under the dog's collar. The abrupt force can cause friction burns and tissue loss, as well as fractures and ligament injuries, the organisation explained.

There is also a risk of serious finger injuries, including fractures, from catching a lunging or twisting dog by hooking your fingers under its collar. Even with expert medical care, such injuries can cause long-term stiffness and loss of function.

To help dog owners avoid injury, the British Society for Surgery of the Hand offered the following tips:

- Avoid hooking your fingers under your dog's collar: use a collar or harness with a grab handle instead

- Don't wind the lead around your hand: instead, use retractable leads, which give your dog space to wander ahead when safe to do so, while allowing you to keep the lead short when you need control

- Larger breeds of dog should always be kept on a shorter lead, to avoid them building up speed that can cause a wrenching force on your hand if they come to an abrupt stop

- Retractable leads should only be used in open spaces, as they can wrap around legs (yours or other people's) or around obstacles such as street lights or trees

Consultant surgeon Rebecca Dunlop said: "Dogs have a wide range of health benefits for their owners, including reducing stress and helping people stay active. 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."

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