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Dog Bites

Most dogs do not bite but any dog has the potential to bite at any time.

Because this is a common injury for children in the US, it is important for parents to learn what they can teach to their children in order to lessen the risk of being bitten.

How common are dog bites in children?

  • Every year, over 4 ½ million people in the United States are bitten by a dog, and most of the victims are children.
  • Twice as many children require medical care after their bites than do adults.
  • In the past decade, dog bites have increased by 33%.
  • Dog bites are among the most frequent cause of injury in children.  They are more likely to lead to a hospital visit than from an injury on the playground.
  • In a 2006 study of 341 children who were bitten by a dog, 85% suffered deep wounds and 27% required hospitalization.
  • The majority of dog bites in children occur in the summer months.

Which children are most likely to get bitten by a dog?


  • In a 2006 study published in the journal of Pediatrics, children less than 1 year of age were most likely to be bitten by a dog.
  • Boys are more likely to be bitten than girls.
  • Children less than 9 years of age are most likely to be bitten in the head or neck area.

Which dogs are most likely to bite children?

  • The majority of dogs that bite belong to the victim’s family or to a friend.
  • Most dog bites occur at home or a familiar place.
  • Pit bull-type of dogs and Rottweilers followed by mixed breeds and German Shepherds have been shown to cause the most number of dog bite related deaths in the United States.
  • German Shepherds and Dobermans were at the top of the list in a 2006 European study.
  • Characteristics of dogs most likely to bite include:Male gender
    Non-neutered
    Chained up
    Poorly trained
    Little social interaction
    Has puppies
    Sick or injured
    Overly excited
    Disturbed while sleeping

For specific information on the care of your dog when you have children see (http://www.avma.org/pubhlth/dogbitebroc.asp)

What are some rules that I can use to teach my child that can prevent a dog bite?

The general rule for parents is not to leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.

The following 10 rules can lessen the risk of your child being bitten by a dog:

DO NOT go near an unfamiliar dog.
DO NOT sneak up on a dog.
DO NOT tease, hit, or pull on a dog.
DO NOT disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
DO NOT go near a growling dog or one that is showing its teeth.
DO NOT pet a dog without asking the owner’s permission.
DO NOT run up to or scream around a dog.
DO NOT run past a dog that may get them excited and aggressive.
DO NOT move if a dog sniffs or approaches you – stay calm even if not threatened.
DO NOT try to get up and run if knocked down – curl up in a ball and put your hands over your face and head.

How do I treat my child with a dog bite?

  • In the large majority of cases, unless just a small scrape is present, your pediatrician or an ER doctor should evaluate a dog bite in your child.
  • If possible, the wound should be cleaned with soap and water right after the injury but this may be difficult with young children.
  • If bleeding is present, apply pressure to the wound with an appropriate size first aid bandage or dressing to control the bleeding.

What will my pediatrician or ER doctor do for my child’s dog bite?

In general, the following steps may be taken in the treatment of your child’s dog bite:

1.   Wound cleaning

How much will depend on the size of the wound, where on the body
it is, and how dirty the wound is

2.   Stopping any bleeding

3.   Wound repair

May require a plastic or orthopedic surgeon

Some wounds may be required to heal without repair, such as a
small puncture in the skin from a dog’s tooth – closure of a
puncture wound can increase the risk of infection
4.   Antibiotics will be started for some wounds caused by dog bites

5.   Tetanus vaccination or a booster may be required

6.   Rabies vaccination may be required – your physician, health department, or local poison control center (1-800-222-1222) can give you guidance.

For more information on Rabies including prevention, click on
Rabies