Dog Bites Are Common


From the WebMD Archives

July 7, 2003 — Dog bites are more common than you might think — and young children, especially boys, are at highest risk. Children must be taught how to respond to dogs — and dog training and neutering are also critical, according to the CDC.

A new CDC report gives statistics on an alarming problem that often involves family pets:

  • In 1994, an estimated 4.7 million dog bites occurred in the U.S., and 799,700 people required medical treatment.
  • In 2001, an estimated 368,245 people were treated in emergency rooms for nonfatal dog bite-related injuries.
  • Children between ages 5 and 9 had the highest injury rates — especially boys.
  • Approximately 154,625 dog bites involved children 14 and under.
  • Forty-five percent of injuries involved the arm and hand; 26% involved the leg and foot; 23% involved the head and neck.
  • With children 4 and under, injuries were mostly to the head and neck.

Dog bites involving children have certain common scenarios, the CDC report says. A toddler was attacked by the family dog in the backyard; a 4-year-old was bitten by a dog that was guarding her pups, a 3-year-old was bitten in the face when trying to take food away from the family dog.

The dog-bite scenarios are slightly different among adults. A man trying to break up a fight between his dogs was bitten on his thumb; a woman had multiple puncture wounds while trying to help her dog, which had been hit by a car; an elderly woman was bitten while trying to keep her dog from attacking paramedics who were trying to transport her in an ambulance.

To prevent dog bites:

  • Consult with a veterinarian or responsible breeder before choosing a dog to determine which breed fits your family’s lifestyle.
  • Don’t get an aggressive dog if you have children.
  • Be sensitive to your child’s apprehensions or fears about a dog. Don’t get a dog if your child is upset about it.
  • Spend time with a dog before buying it or adopting it.
  • Use caution when bringing a dog or puppy into your home if you have an infant or toddler.
  • Get your dog spayed or neutered to reduce aggressive tendencies.
  • Never leave infants or young children alone with any dog.
  • Dog training and socializing is important before the dog becomes a family pet. Teach the dog submissive behaviors, like rolling over to expose the tummy and letting you take food away without growling.
  • If your dog shows aggressive tendencies, talk to your vet immediately.

Teach children basic safety around dogs:

  • Do not play aggressive games — including wrestling — with your family dog.
  • Never approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Never run from a dog or scream.
  • Stand still when an unfamiliar dog approaches you.
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still.
  • Never play with a dog unless an adult is around.
  • If stray dogs are acting strangely, tell an adult right away.
  • Avoid making direct eye contact with a strange dog — it could trigger an attack.
  • Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
  • If you get bit, tell an adult immediately.

Dog training can help prevent aggressive behaviors that lead to dog bites, the CDC report emphasizes. But children must also be given instruction in how to interact with a new pet, the report adds.

SOURCE: CDC, Morbidity and Morality Weekly Report, July 4, 2003.

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