Who Let the Dogs Out?

All pet lovers and dog owners know that a huge component of having a dog is providing the appropriate exercise for the dog’s energy by walking or running. Unfortunately, sometimes dogs get too excited by animals (SQUIRREL?!), cyclists or even cars, and pull on leashes. This combined with improper leash holding can result in soft tissue or skeletal injury depending on the severity.

Potential injuries include: tendon injury (jersey finger), finger dislocation or fracture (distal phalanx, middle phalanx, or proximal phalanx), metacarpal fracture; even more severe a distal radius fracture from falling on outstretched hand (FOOSH). These injuries can cause significant difficulty with daily activities, work tasks, and care of others (including Fido).

Proximal Phalanx Fractures: The finger is made up of three bones (distal, middle and proximal phalanxes) which musculature and ligaments attach to allowing motion and functional use of fingers. When improperly holding a leash, the fingers can be pulled forcefully causing a proximal phalanx fracture.

A finger fracture presents with swelling, possible bruising, throbbing, pain and may appear deformed.

Common treatment for a finger fracture is custom splinting for immobilization to encourage bone healing or surgery to fixate the bone fragments with a plate and screws or Kirschner wires, buddy taping and hand therapy to regain motion, strength and address pain.

Safe Leash Handling Practices

  • Wear safe shoes to avoid tripping.
  • Avoid wrapping the leash or other dog walking equipment around your hand.
  • Avoid using a retractable leash.
  • Choose an appropriate leash length to be able to maintain control over your pup.
  • Choose a leash length that is appropriate for your hand size.
  • Practice good leash etiquette with your dog. Practicing boundaries and manners on leash is a great bonding experience for you and your pup.

If you sustain a hand injury on your nightly walk with Fido, contact a hand surgeon for proper evaluation and treatment. The odds are high that you will find yourself in hand therapy!


Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist: Leash Safety
ASHT Patient Education Resources: Hand Fractures

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