Report Shows Increase In Hospital-Treated Dog Bites

Armen Hareyan's picture

Hospital-Treated Dog Bites

Minnesota Department of Health review of hospital records shows a 40 percent increase in hospital-treated dog bites between 1998 and 2005.

The largest growth was in the number of dog bites treated in emergency departments. The highest rates of both hospitalization and emergency department treatment occurred among children ages one to four years. In 75 percent of the instances, the victim was familiar with the dog(s) involved. The dog bites most often occurred in the home (48 percent) and yard (18 percent).


Hospital records used in the study seldom documented the breed of the dog. Professional journal articles cited in the report indicate that identifying a single breed as particularly dangerous can lead to a false sense of security about other breeds and does not fully address the complexity of the problem. In addition, a dog's tendency to bite is based on factors such as its early experiences, socialization, and the victim's behavior, as well as the dog's heredity.

The report recommended that physicians, especially pediatricians and family physicians, counsel parents about the importance of supervising their children when they are around dogs and teaching them safe behaviors around animals.

The study also validates the importance and value of hospital discharge data for surveillance of hospital-treated dog bites.

The article was prepared by the MDH Injury and Violence Prevention Unit, which collects and interprets data on injury and violence; develops and evaluates prevention programs and policies; and provides tools, technical assistance, and information.