Dog Bite Prevention
|Dog bites result in approximately 44,000 facial injuries in US hospitals each year. This represents between 0.5% and 1.5% of all emergency room visits. Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States seeks medical attention for a dog bite. Male patients slightly outnumber females in most studies. Unfortunately children comprise 60% of the dog bite victims. Severe injuries occur almost exclusively in children less than 10 years of age. The face is the most frequent target (77% of all injures). Mail carriers are an exception where 97% involve the lower extremities. We see an unusual number of dreadful injuries each spring. Severely injured patients stay an average of 4.2 days in the hospital. Dog bites cause an average of 18 deaths a year.|
|Almost $165 million is spent treating dog bites in the United States for the estimated 800,000 dog bite related injuries requiring treatment each year. 70% of dog bites occur on the owner's property.||
These wounds potentially result in disfiguring scars. The central target area for the face includes the lips, nose, and cheeks. Dog bites are becoming more common with a 37% increase in medically treated cases between 1986 to 1994 (dog population rose less than 2%)
Dog human interaction
The vast majority of bites are by pet dogs and happen when people are engaged in socially acceptable behavior in appropriate places. They generally (61%) occur close to dog's home or home of the bitten person. Typically (77%) injuries are by friendly dogs known to the bitten person. In one study of an urban emergency room of children less than 4 years old, 47% were bitten by their dog and 90% were bitten at home. When broadly defining provocation, almost half of all injuries are provoked. Children aged 5 or younger are more likely to provoke animals.
Hounds are less likely to injure than working or sporting breeds. Puppies are also more likely to injure than an adult dog.
There are social trends towards training and keeping dangerous animals. Aggressive guard dogs are trained for self protection. While any dog can bite, the top biting breeds include:
- Pit Bulls
- German Shepherds
- Doberman Pinschers
- Chow Chows
Veterinary practitioners recognize aggressive behavior of dogs toward children as a correctable entity. Counter conditioning and desensitization will change this behavior. However, the first demonstration may result in a devastating injury.
We must protect the patient from infection, tetanus, and possibly rabies after an investigation of the animal. Repair of the wounds may require simple closure, removal of injured tissue, and reconstructive surgery. Underlying nerve and bone injuries may need repair. Sometimes completely severed tissue can be replaced as a graft or reattached with microsurgical repair of tiny blood vessels. Sometimes we have to move other tissue into the defect to close or recreate the disfigured feature. Such reconstruction may need multiple operations over several years.Scars are inevitable. Scars may be improved but never completely removed. Other techniques used to improve the deformity include dermabrasion (sanding of the skin), pressure scar modification, and camouflage make-up. None of this is very much fun for the patient or the family. Patients frequently become nervous of dogs. Parents often suffer from shame and guilt and suffer more than the child.
Characteristics of biting dogs
|The increase in population of large dogs has resulted in an increased severity of bites. German shepherds were identified as the breed involved in 44% of all bite cases but accounted for only 22% of license registrations. Small purebred dogs accounted for less than 20% of bites but more than 40% of registrations. The pit bull terrier is a common cause of urban dog bite injuries in children. The major problem is that they are frequently (94%) unprovoked. These dogs are also freely roaming animals (67%).|
The tendency for dogs to bite is the product of many factors. Some breeds have a genetic predisposition towards aggressiveness. There is less tendency to bite with early socialization to people, training, quality of care and supervision. Factors that may increase the tendency to bite include maltreatment, behavior of the victim, and possibly the weather.
- invading dog's territory
- threat to dog's family
- threat to dog
- jealous dog
You must be careful to avoid:
- approaching or bending over dogs especially if they are lying quietly
- approaching them immediately after entering their territory
- teasing or waking them
- playing with them till they become overexcited
Ten rules DO NOT
- hold your face close to a dog
- allow dogs to roam unleashed
- approach a strange dog
- tease a dog
- startle a dog
- disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies
- leave a small child and dog alone
- omit vaccination of a dog
- leave a dog alone with strangers
- ignore the warning signals of aggressive behavior
A Threatened Dog Often Bites
- Never run from or scream at a dog.
- Do not challenge the dog by staring it right in the eye.
- Be as still as possible if approached by an unfamiliar dog.
- If a dog knocks you over, roll into a ball and stay still.
- Tell an adult if you see a stray dog or one acting strangely.
- If a dog bites you, tell an adult RIGHT AWAY!
Dog Owners CAN Help
- Spay / neuter your dog, this can calm them down.
- Train your dog in obedience.
- DO NOT play aggressive games with your dog.
- Keep your dog healthy, an unnoticed injury can make a dog aggressive.
- Follow leash laws.
- Unsocialized dogs that are left outside are more likely to bite than those maintained as house dogs.
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