According to the CDC, 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. One in five bites requires medical attention. And in 2006, more than 30,000 people required reconstructive surgery to repair damage done by a dog bite.
The three groups most likely to be bitten are:
• Children between five and nine years of age -- kids under the age of 15 represent 70 percent of all dog bite victims
• Adult men
• People with dogs in their home
People with more than one dog are five times more likely to receive a bite.
More Disturbing Statistics on Kids and Dog Bites
According to DogBiteLaw.com:
• The most severe dog bite injuries happen almost exclusively to children under the age of 10.
• Over 60 percent of dog bites occur at home or another familiar place.
• Over 75 percent of dogs that bite are owned by the child's family or a friend.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians:
• Most fatal dog bites are in children.
• Most dog bites are unprovoked; most victims are engaged in normal activities when the bite occurs.
• Fatal infant dog bite attacks most often involve a sleeping baby.
Fortunately, fatal dog bites are rare.
But even after the physical wounds heal, the emotional trauma of a dog bite can stay with a child for the rest of his life. It can result in a permanent fear of dogs and rob a child of the opportunity to share his life with a wonderful canine companion.
A Word About Unprovoked Attacks
While it's true most dog bites aren't provoked in ways humans understand, from the dog's point of view there has been probably some form of provocation. Since dogs don't speak our language, they can't tell us in words there's trouble brewing.
A normally gentle family pet will usually send signals of discontent. It's our job to understand the signals and respond in a way that doesn't escalate the situation.
According to the folks at Doggone Safe, a dog may exhibit one or several of the following signs of anxiety as a way of alerting that he is not happy and feels provoked:
• One paw raised
• "Half moon eye"
• Displacement behaviors -- behaviors that are out of context for the situation, for example:
- Yawning when not tired
- Licking chops without the presence of food
• Avoidance behaviors, including:
- Turning head away
- Hiding behind person or object
• Tail between legs
• Tail low and only the end is wagging
• Ears back and very rapid panting
General Tips for Preventing Dog Bites
1. Use great caution when approaching a strange dog. Don't try to pet any dog before he sees you and sniffs you.
2. Don't turn your back to an unfamiliar dog or try to run away. The natural instinct of most dogs will be to give chase and catch you.
3. Don't attempt to interact with a dog that is sleeping, eating, playing with a toy or bone, or a mother who is with her puppies.
4. Signs a dog is about to bite:
- She suddenly freezes and holds her body rigid
- She stands with her front legs splayed and her head low, looking at you
- She curls her lip to show teeth
5. If you feel a dog is a threat:
- Stand motionless with your hands at your sides
- Avoid eye contact with the dog
- If the dog loses interest, back away slowly
- If the dog comes at you anyway, offer him anything you're holding, a purse or jacket for example, anything that may distract him
- If you wind up on the ground, curl into a ball, put your hands over your ears and stay still -- resist the urge to yell, scream or move around
Keeping Children Safe
Never leave an infant or a small child alone with a dog, yours or anyone else's.
Every child, including toddlers, should learn the following safety rules:
• Be careful and respectful of all animals, including your own pets.
• Don't approach a strange dog or reach through a fence or car window to pet an animal.
• Greet the dog's owner first and ask permission to pet the dog.
• Keep your face away from the face of an unfamiliar dog.
• If you encounter a strange dog and feel threatened, don't run or scream. "Be like a tree" and stand still. If a dog knocks you down or you fall, roll into a ball and lie still.
• Don't make direct eye contact with a dog.
• Tell a parent or other adult if you encounter a stray dog or one that makes you feel threatened.
Dr. Karen Becker is a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. You can visit her site at: MercolaHealthyPets.com.
Her goal is to help you create wellness in order to prevent illness in the lives of your pets. This proactive approach seeks to save you and your pet from unnecessary stress and suffering by identifying and removing health obstacles even before disease occurs. Unfortunately, most veterinarians in the United States are trained to be reactive. They wait for symptoms to occur, and often treat those symptoms without addressing the root cause.
By reading Dr. Becker's information, you'll learn how to make impactful, consistent lifestyle choices to improve your pet's quality of life.