Games of fetch can end in injury
Pet owners can get hurt while playing with their pooches
Tom Demas was teaching his dog Scout how to retrieve a whiffle ball a few months ago, when a moment of inattention led to a serious injury.
“Scout went that way and my finger stayed right here with my hand,” Demas said. “All of a sudden I felt this tremendous pain and ripping in my finger.”
The pain sent Demas to see hand specialist Dr. Mark Cohen, MD, Hand, Wrist and Elbow Surgeon at Midwest Orthopedics at Rush in Chicago. Cohen diagnosed a boutonniere deformity, which is an injury to the tendon that straightens the finger.
Demas’s case is unusual, but orthopedists Dr. Cohen and John Fernandez, MD, Hand, Wrist and Elbow Surgeon at Midwest Orthopedics at Rush, are seeing more people with pretty serious injuries from their dogs, and not from bites.
“You’ll actually grab the dog by the collar and the dog will pull away and will jerk in a certain way, and you basically will twist the finger because it’s trapped underneath the dog collar,” Fernandez said. “It will result in a fracture or a dislocation.”
“People talk on their cell phones, they hold the leash and they’re looking at the dog, but their dog jumps, and they slip,” Cohen explained.
Both doctors have simple ways to avoid dog-caused mishaps: don’t wrap the leash around your hand or wrist; don’t put your fingers under the collar. And probably number one: pay attention. Dogs don’t always do what you think they will.
Demas was lucky and avoided surgery with splints and occupational therapy. He and Scout are still best play pals, but here’s his number one tip.
“Never put your finger in a whiffle ball. Bad idea,” he said.
Another danger is if your dog gets into a tussle that’s more than good natured with another dog. Never insert yourself into the fight. Instead, if your dog is leashed, pull him or her back to you.
According the Centers for Disease Control, more than a quarter of dog-related injuries happened while people were walking the pet, with the most frequent circumstances falling or tripping over one's dog (31 percent of cases) and being pushed or pulled by the four-legged friends. As cats are mostly homebodies, it's no surprise most accidents involving the bossy felines (nearly 86 percent) occurred in or around the house. Nearly 12 percent of these injuries happened while people were chasing cats. Pets can suddenly rush to the door or scurry around the owners' feet, causing these accidents, experts said. Sometimes the culprit is not the actual animal, but its by-product. The CDC estimates about nine percent of the falls are related to tripping over a toy or food bowl, or slipping in a urine or water puddle.
Medical and veterinary experts have this advice for avoiding pet collisions:
- Put your animal in another room or different area of the house before carrying groceries or heavy things into the house. This will protect both the animal and human, so the dog or cat won't knock you off balance, and you will avoid stepping on an animal while distracted.
- Keep stairs and hallways clear of clutter.
- If you get up frequently in the dark, use night-lights so your path is lighted and you can see your pet. Also, consider removing the animal from the bedroom to prevent stepping on it.
Experts add, increasing your dog’s physical activity will channel his energy in the right direction.
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