Children At Risk of Dog-Bite Injuries

dog bite

A new study published in the March issue of the journal Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery reports that young children are the ones most at risk of dog-bite injuries to the head and neck. The study also indicates that most of these injuries occur in warmer weather, so it is time to become more watchful.

The study involved 84 children with dog-bite injuries who were treated by the researchers. The ages ranged from 10 months to 19 years, but the average age was 6. Approximately half of the injured children were 4 years old or younger.

The family pet was to blame in 27% of the cases. The most common areas injuries were the cheek (34%) and the lips (21%). Dog bites are considered contaminated wound injuries, but the study found that wound healing was excellent in most of the cases. Infections were infrequent.

It is important for parents to teach their children how to treat dogs. It is important to train the family dog in obedience. It is also noted that neutered dogs are less likely to bite.

Each year, nearly 1 million Americans seek medical attention for dog bites; half of these are children. Most dog bite-related injuries occur in children 5-9 years of age. Almost two thirds of injuries among children 4 yrs or younger are to the head or neck region. Dog bites are a largely preventable public health problem, and adults and children can learn to reduce their chances of being bitten.

Basic safety around dogs

• Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.

• Do not run from a dog and scream.

• Remain motionless (“be still like a tree”) when approached by an unfamiliar dog.

• If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still (“be still like a log”).

• A child should not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.

• A child should immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior to an adult.

• Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.


• Do not disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.

• Do not a pet a dog without asking permission from its owner first.

• Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.

Things to consider before adding a dog to your household

• Learn about suitable breeds of dogs for your household.

• Dogs with histories of aggression are inappropriate in households with children.

• If your child is fearful or apprehensive around dogs, then don’t get one. it will not make the child less fearful.

• Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it. Use caution when bringing a dog into the home of an infant or toddler.

• Spay/neuter virtually all dogs (this frequently reduces aggressive tendencies).

• Never leave infants or young children alone with any dog.

• Do not play aggressive games with your dog (e.g. wrestling).

• Properly socialize and train any dog entering the household. Teach the dog submissive behaviors (e.g. rolling over to expose abdomen and relinquishing food without growling.

• Immediately seek professional advice (e.g. from veterinarians or animal trainers) if the dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.


Head and neck dog bites in children; Volume 140, Issue 3, Pages 354-357 (March 2009); Angelo Monroy, MDac, Philomena Behar, MDac, Mark Nagy, MDab, Christopher Poje, MDac, Michael Pizzuto, MDac, Linda Brodsky, MDabc
Dog Bite Prevention; Suture for a Living, June 7, 2009
American Kennel Club



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