How many dog bites occur?
Almost 75 million dogs live in the United States, and since many victims of dog bites don’t seek medical care or report the attack, it may be that the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s estimate of 4.5 million dog bites each year in the U.S. may be too low. Approximately 880,000 dog bite victims seek emergency medical care at hospitals in the U.S. every year.
Dog’s teeth and the pressure exerted by their jaws can cause significant damage to the tissues under the skin, including bones, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves.
More than 30,000 victims of dog bites undergo reconstructive surgery each year, and 15-20 people die of dog bites yearly.
Who is at risk for a dog bite?
The risk of being bitten by a dog increases if there is a dog in the home; the more dogs there are, the greater the risk. Men are more frequent victims than women.
Children between the ages of 5 and 9 are more likely to be bitten by a dog than other age groups. Children are also more likely to present for medical attention.
What should I do if someone is bitten by a dog?
The dog bite victim needs to be taken to a safe place away from the assailant dog to prevent further attack and injury. Since dog bites can cause significant damage beneath the skin, a type of injury that cannot always easily be appreciated, medical care should be accessed by a health care practitioner.
Wounds should be kept elevated and, if possible, washing the wound with tap water may be attempted.
Information should be obtained from the dog’s owner about the dog’s rabies immunization status, but if that is not possible, hospital, animal control centers, or law enforcement personnel will help gather any required information.
Dog bites at a glance:
• Dog bites account for more than 90% of all animal bites. 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the U.S., and more than 30,000 victims require constructive surgery.
• Injuries may involve structures deep beneath the skin including muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels.
• Infections, including tetanus and rabies, need to be considered.
• Wound cleaning decreases the risk of infection.
• Skin repair increases the risk of infection, and the decision to suture the skin balances the risk of infection versus the benefit of a better appearing scar.