Surgeons are warning dog owners not to wrap leads around their fingers or wrist because of the dangers of serious hand injury.
They say thousands of people could be at risk from lacerations, friction burns, fractures and ligament injuries.
There were 30 serious hand injuries caused by dog leads last year in Cornwall alone, the British Society for Surgery of the Hand said.
One of those was to Jillian Tisdale, 65, who has two retrievers.
She had just finished walking one of her dogs when it became distracted by another dog and ran off excitedly on the lead.
The lead ended up wrapped tightly around Jillian’s middle fingers on her right hand, causing severe damage, including the “degloving” of her finger – when the skin and some of the soft tissue are taken off.
She also had serious cuts to her fingers and a dislocation of the index finger.
She said she felt “terrible pain”.
But her main concern was to get it treated in the right way.
“I’ve fortunately regained the full use of my hand – so I can enjoy playing with my grandchildren, as well as hobbies including diving, mountain climbing, and even dog-walking again.”
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE OF FINGER INJURY FOLLOWS BELOW
Jillian was treated by consultant surgeon Rebecca Dunlop, from Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, who also collected the data on hand injuries from dog leads.
She said she had noticed an increase in this type of “devastating” injury in recent years, which can need long-term treatment and means the fingers often do not return to normal.
Mrs Dunlop said: “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.”
She said hand injuries could also be very costly “through time off work and medical costs”.
To avoid injury, dog owners should:
- avoid hooking fingers under a dog’s collar
- not wind the lead around their hand – use a retractable lead instead
- only use retractable leads in open spaces because they can also wrap around legs, trees and furniture
- keep larger dogs on a shorter lead to avoid them building up speed