Finally, we have evidence and statistical trends rather than just anecdotal evidence and conjecture. A new study identifies dog breeds and physical traits that pose the highest risk of biting with severe injury.
While the results of the study will likely lead to more breed discrimination among insurance companies (not to mention landlords), it is critical information for parents and caretakers of young children.
Study methods overview
The research explored the risks of dog bite injuries to the face in children and bite severity by breed, size and head structure…
Researchers reviewed 15 years of dog-related facial trauma cases from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the University of Virginia Health System. They looked at wound size, tissue tearing, bone fractures and other injuries severe enough to warrant consultation by a facial trauma and reconstructive surgeon and created a damage severity scale.
Researchers also performed an extensive literature search from 1970 to current for dog bite papers that reported breed to determine relative risk of biting from a certain breed. This was combined with hospital data to determine relative risk of biting and average tissue damage of bite. (source)
-There is an estimated 83 million owned dogs in the United States.
-On average, 4.7 million people in the United State are bitten by dogs annually.
-Twenty percent of these victims require medical care for their injuries.
-Those who require treatment after dog bites are predominately children ages 5 to 9 years.
*The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Key study findings
BREEDS MOST LIKELY TO BITE: Pit bulls and mixed breed dogs with wide and short heads have the highest risk of biting and cause the most damage per bite.
PHYSICAL TRAITS OF DOGS MOST LIKELY TO BITE: Dogs with wide and short heads weighing between 66 and 100 pounds have the highest risk of biting and cause the most damage per bite.
Prevention–Researchers’ tips for people with dogs and children:
- Most bites to children occur from a family dog when the dog is resting and the child approaches. Try to provide and encourage resting places away from where children run and play.
- Many bites to children occur even when an adult is in the room. If you can’t devote your attention to the interactions between the dog and child, it may be best to have a physical barrier between them, such as a baby gate or crate for the dog. This is especially important for toddlers whose behaviors may be more erratic, unpredictable or frightening to a dog.
- Teach children to let resting dogs lie and to stay out of dog crates, beds and other resting places that are designated for the dog. If the dog’s favorite spot is on the couch, put a towel or blanket down to clearly delineate the dog space versus child space.
- Children should not approach, touch or otherwise interact with dogs while they are eating. Provide quiet areas for dogs to eat away from areas where children run and play. Rawhides and other flavored chews should only be given when dogs are separated from child play areas.
- Teach children to find an adult if a dog takes one of their toys or snacks. Children should never attempt to retrieve these items themselves.
Journal Reference: Garth F. Essig, Cameron Sheehan, Shefali Rikhi, Charles A. Elmaraghy, J. Jared Christophel. Dog bite injuries to the face: Is there risk with breed ownership? A systematic review with meta-analysis. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, 2019; 117: 182 DOI: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2018.11.028