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Most dog-bite injuries are from the family pet

PHOENIX – Prior studies have shown that most dog bite injuries result from family dogs. A new study conducted by Mayo Clinic and Phoenix Children’s Hospital sheds some further light on the nature of these injuries.

The recently published study, in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery, demonstrated that more than 50 percent of the dog-bite injuries treated at Phoenix Children’s Hospital came from dogs belonging to an immediate family member.

The retrospective study looked at a 74-month period between 2007 and 2013 in which there were 670 dog bite injuries treated at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Of those, 282 were severe enough to require evaluation by the trauma team or transportation by ambulance. Characteristics of the most common injuries included:

  • Both genders were affected (55 percent male).
  • The most common patient age was 5 years, but spanned from 2 months to 17 years.
  • 28 dog breeds were identified and the most common dog (39 percent) was pit bull.
  • More than half of the dogs belonged to the patient’s immediate family.
  • The most common injuries were lacerations (often to the face), but there were also a number of fractures and critical injuries such as severe neck and genital trauma.

“More than 60 percent of the injuries we studied required an operation,” said lead author Dr. Erin Garvey, a surgical resident at Mayo Clinic. “While the majority of patients were able to go home the next day, the psychological effects of being bitten by a dog also need to be taken into account.”

The biggest warning from this study “is that familiarity with a dog may confer a false sense of safety,” said Dr. Ramin Jamshidi, senior author on the study and a pediatric surgeon at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Medical Director of Pediatric Trauma at Maricopa Medical Center.

“The next step is to find out what type of education is needed and for whom – the parents, owners of the dogs and even the kids themselves,” Garvey said.

“Above all, we are interested in the health of children, so we hope to educate families on the importance of following safety tips and guidelines when dealing with dogs, even the well-known family pet at home,” Jamshidi said.

The Injury Prevention Center at Phoenix Children’s Hospital recommends that families with a dog in the house follow some of the tips below.

  • Never leave infants or young children alone with a dog, including the family dog.
  • Make sure all dogs in the home are neutered or spayed.
  • Take time to train and socialize your dogs.
  • Keep dogs mentally stimulated by walking and exercising them.
  • Teach children appropriate ways to interact with animals.

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