Dog Walking Sends Thousands to Emergency Rooms Each Year Interview with:

Ridge MaxsonM.D. Candidate, Class of 2024 Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Ridge Maxson

Ridge Maxson
M.D. Candidate, Class of 2024
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Dog walking is an increasingly popular mode of physical activity for adults in the US, but its injury burden and associated risk factors are not fully understood. This study found that the 3 most common injuries sustained by adult dog walkers in the US were finger fracture, TBI, and shoulder sprain or strain. Dog walking-related injuries sent approximately 423,000 adults to US EDs between 2001 and 2020, with an annual average of more than 21,000 visits. During that 20-year period, the estimated annual injury incidence increased by more than 4-fold. Among injured dog walkers, older adults and women were particularly vulnerable to serious injury, such as fracture and TBI. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Dog walking is associated with a considerable and rising injury burden. As the US population continues to age and become more physically active, careful consideration must be given to the safety and age-appropriateness of common forms of physical activity such as dog walking. Greater public and clinician awareness of the injury risk associated with dog walking, along with implementation of effective preventive measures, can help individuals lead active lifestyles with their canine companions, lower their chances of sustaining injuries while dog walking, and reduce the burden of dog walking-related injuries on the healthcare system. Is there a safer way to walk dog/dogs?

Response: Although not studied here, several strategies to minimize injury risk while walking dogs have been offered. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that dogs undergo obedience training to discourage hazardous behaviors such as lunging while leashed. Since dogs can move quickly and unpredictably during a walk, holding the leash in the palm of the hand instead of wrapped around the fingers or wrist can allow for greater control over the dog and the ability to loosen or tighten one’s grip if the dog begins to pull away. Shorter, non-retractable leashes can also lessen the chances of getting tangled in or tripped up by the leash of a wandering dog. To help mitigate risk of fall-related injuries, dog walkers aged 65 or older may consider performing resistance and balance exercises to build muscle and improve coordination; both of these forms of exercise can reduce the incidence and severity of falls in seniors. Finally, practical measures including avoiding distractions, such as texting while walking, and remaining aware of their surroundings may allow dog walkers to anticipate and react to sudden movements by their leashed dogs.

Disclosures: The senior author Dr. McFarland is a consultant for Stryker Corporation, outside of this work. All other authors have no conflicts of interest, including relevant financial interests, activities, relationships, and affiliations, to declare.


Maxson, R., et al. (2023) Epidemiology of Dog Walking-Related Injuries Among Adults Presenting to U.S. Emergency Departments, 2001-2020. Medicine & Science in Sports &

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Last Updated on April 26, 2023 by Marie Benz