Is your child more likely to be bitten by the family dog or someone else’s dog? Many parents might assume that most dog attacks occur from either strays or another’s dog because they feel like know their own pet’s behavior.
A new study points out that even man’s best friend can turn on a child or adult under the right circumstances.
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 study noted that many times, because a pet is almost considered a family member, parents of young children are too relaxed about the interactions between their children and the family dog, presenting a false sense of safety.
"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 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; the most common dog was pit bull
· More than 50 percent 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
“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," explains Dr. Garvey.
The Injury Prevention Center at Phoenix Children's Hospital recommends that families with a dog in the house follow the safety 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.
A good rule of thumb is to learn how to read your dog’s body language. There are signs a dog will give when they are uncomfortable or are feeling threatened:
· Tensed body
· Stiff tail
· Pulled back head and/or ears
· Furrowed brow
· Eyes rolled so the whites are visible
· Flicking tongue
· Intense stare
· Backing away
Many of the dog’s body signals listed above are the opposite of how humans display fear or irritation, and some are natural body occurrences that have nothing to do with how we react to being threatened – such as yawning, For canines, however, all of the above means - back-off.
One more important note, when putting space between yourself and a dog that might bite, never turn your back on him and run away. A dog's natural instinct will be to chase you.
Sources: Jim McVeigh. http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2015/05/27/3579702_dog-bite-study-shows-familiarity.html?rh=1