Dog walkers could be putting themselves at risk of serious hand injuries by controlling their pets incorrectly, surgeons have warned.
Misuse of leads and collars is causing “many serious injuries” among animal lovers, according to the British Society for Surgery of the Hand (BSSH).
According to the RSPCA, there are approximately eight and a half million dogs kept as pets in the UK.
The BSSH said 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.
Fractures, dislocations, lacerations and friction burns are among the injuries seen by doctors treating unfortunate dog owners.
As well as being painful and traumatic, some injuries can be seriously debilitating and take up to a year to properly recover from, surgeons say.
The BSSH has issued advice on how to hold leads and collars in a way that minimises the risk of injury.
They recommend that dog owners should not wrap the lead around their wrists, hands or fingers, or hook their fingers under the dog’s collar.
The surgeons also advise keeping larger dogs on short leads to prevent them building up speed.
Consultant surgeon Rebecca Dunlop, from Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, told the Daily Mail: “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.
“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.”
Ms Dunlop said a particularly common injury caused by dog collars and leads is “spiral fractures” of the finger bones, which often need an operation to fix.
Long-term hand damage can be caused when people dislocate their fingers by hooking them under their dog’s collar before the dog lurches or makes a sudden movement.