According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 4.5 million dog bites occur in the U. S. annually, approximately 800,000 of which require medical attention. More than half of those bites occur in children. Serious dog bites may lead to infection, disability, deformity, and even death. In fact, during the period between 1989 and 1994, 109 bite-related fatalities were reported with 57 percent of those occurring in children under 10 years of age. The breeds most frequently implicated in the fatal dog attacks were pit bulls, rottweilers, and German shepherds. Interestingly enough, most adults are bitten at home by their own dogs. Most bites occur from dogs known by the victim, either from their own pet or one owned by a neighbor. Unneutered male dogs account for a substantial number of bites.
Dog bites represent a potentially preventable public health problem. One of the key elements in prevention is education of the public, both adults and children. Guidelines for the prevention of dog bites were recently published in the Journal off the American Board of Family Practice. Use these guidelines as a tool to educate family members, both adults and children.
- Never leave infants or young children alone with any dog.
- Select dog breeds carefully.
- Neuter male dogs.
- Ensure your dog’s good health.
- Enroll your dog in a basic obedience training class with regular involvement by family.
- Remedy aggressive or inappropriate behavior.
- Do not allow others to play aggressively with dogs.
- License your pets and keep all inoculations current.
- Act responsibly if your dog bites someone.
- Play calmly-never tease a dog or put your face near a dog’s mouth when playing.
- Never disturb any dog when it is sleeping, feeding, injured, or with pups.
- Ask the dog’s owner for permission to touch the dog.
- Pet a dog only after it sees and sniffs you.
- Never run past or turn your back on a dog: its instinct is to chase and attack.
- Never separate fighting animals.
- Do not look directly into a dog’s eyes.
- If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, stand still.
- Tell an adult if you are bitten by any animal.