Dogs are recognized universally as “man's best friend.” There are currently around 45 million dog owners in the United States, owning approximately 63 million dogs (6). Owners rely on their dogs to serve as protectors, companions, and friends. Despite the contagious energy and love that many dogs exude, approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year, and around 17% of these attacks require serious medical care (3).
Dog bite statistics are alarming, but it is important to understand them in order to enhance your own safety and awareness. Each year, 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites, and 50% of them are children (4). A dozen die each year as a result of dog bites (4). The rate of dog bite-related injuries is highest for children ages 5 to 9 years old, with two-thirds of injuries among children, ages four years and younger, and occurring in the head or neck region (4).
Dog bites may also create financial stress. Although the cost of pain and suffering can not be measured, hospital charges for victims of dog bites, omitting charges for physician services or post-discharge care, amount to almost $40.5 million annually (7). Though most insurance policies provide liability coverage up to $100,000 to $300,000, the dog owner must pay for all damages that exceed the coverage amount. Furthermore, medical costs, workers' compensation, legal expenses, mail carrier replacement, and other expenses associated with dog bite accidents exceed $25 million annually for the Postal Service (5).
The ten breeds involved in the most lethal attacks over the past ten years are Pitbulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Huskies, Malamutes, Dobermans, Chow Chows, St. Bernards, Great Danes, and Akitas (3).
Although some dog breeds may be more inclined to behave aggressively than others, it is important to take precautions around all breeds of dogs. A study conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the CDC, and the Humane Society of the United States proved that no dog breed is inherently more dangerous than another (3). Though certain dog breeds have a history of aggression, such as Pitbulls (which are sometimes trained to fight dogs and animals for sport), any dog breed may be involved in an attack. Even the friendliest of dogs will occasionally attack if protecting an owner or family member from a perceived threat. An act or motion of a human which has little significance can be perceived by a dog as a threat under certain circumstances. Certainly, larger dog breeds have bigger jaws and teeth and tend to cause more serious injuries when they bite, although even the smallest of breeds can be dangerous to children. Children's heads and faces are lower to the ground and closer to the mouth area of the dog, making even the smallest dog a potential threat to a happy-go-lucky toddler.
If you have been attacked by a dog, it is important to follow six basic steps in order to minimize the risk of infection. First, if you are suffering from significant pain or bleeding, call your doctor immediately (1). Second, wash the wound with soap and water and then apply pressure with a clean towel until it stops bleeding. Third, bandage the wound. Fourth, elevate the injury above the level of your heart in order to decrease swelling and reduce the risk of infection. Fifth, report the incident to the proper authorities in your community, such as the animal control office or police. Sixth, apply antibiotic ointment to the wound twice a day until healing is complete.
- Family Doctor.org (September, 2005). Cat and Dog Bites. Retrieved on July 1, 2007.
- Wikipedia. (2007). Dog Attack. Retrieved July 1, 2007.
- Healthypet.com. (2007). Dog Bites – Are there Dangerous Breeds?. Retrieved on July 1, 2007.
- JAVMA 218. (June 1, 2001). A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention. Retrieved on July 1, 2007.
- Safety and Health – Keeping Letter Carriers Safe on the Job. Be Alert!
- Dog Bite Awareness Is Important to You. Retrieved on July 1, 2007.
- American Pet Association. (Form polls taken between 1998 – 2006). Basic facts about cats and dogs. Retrieved on July 1, 2007.
- National Center for Injury Control and Prevention. (2006). Hospitalizations for Dog Bite Injuries. Retrieved on July 1, 2007.