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Dog Walking Can Be Rough for Older Adults

Study notes the risk of bone fractures for those 65 and over, suggests obedience training as a remedy

a man walking with a golden retriever

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En español | Though a dog can be your best friend, and walking is generally good for you, taking precautions may be in order before you take Fido out for regular strolls.

A study by University of Pennsylvania medical researchers has found that walking a dog on a leash poses a risk of hip and other bone fractures in people age 65 and older. The study was published online in JAMA Surgery this week.

Penn researchers analyzed injury statistics compiled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission from 2004 to 2017. They found that the annual number of hospital emergency department visits involving bone fractures for older adults who had been walking leashed dogs more than doubled in that period. The team attributed the increase to two factors: a rise in pet ownership and the recent emphasis on physical activity among older people.

Of the older adults with fractures, 78 percent were women. It is unknown what proportion of all older dog walkers they represent.

Fractures bring serious possible repercussions. Hip fractures, which accounted for 17 percent of injuries, are associated with a lower quality of life and much higher mortality rates when incurred by older adults, the researchers noted.

But the researchers stressed that they are not recommending that older adults give up dogs or walking. Health professionals could advocate that older dog owners consider obedience training to ensure their dogs do not lunge while leashed. And those contemplating getting a dog may want to select a smaller breed.

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