March 01, 2010
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.5
million people are bitten by dogs each year. While this is an
alarming statistic, most of these bites are preventable.
"Human behavior is a major factor in dog bites," explains Dr.
Mark Stickney Director of General Surgery Services at the Texas
A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical
Sciences. "Children are commonly bit by dogs because of their fast,
uncoordinated and unpredictable movements that can frighten dogs
and make them feel threatened."
Because of this, children under the age of five may unknowingly
antagonize a dog into biting them. Boys between the ages of five
and nine years old are actually the most likely to be bitten by a
"These bites, which typically occur on the face, head and neck,
are rarely fatal but they are obviously painful and can lead to
infection if not properly cared for, and disfigurement in extreme
cases" says Stickney.
In addition to fear, other common causes of dog bites include
aggressive play, territoriality over food or a special toy or
perceived territorial boundary, an aggression behavioral problem
"A wagging tail does NOT equal a friendly dog," warns Stickney.
"Never approach a dog you do not know and always ask an owner's
permission to pet their dog."
When you do approach an unfamiliar dog with the owner's
permission, move slowly and let the dog sniff your hand before
touching it. You also want to avoid petting the dog's face, head
"Never bother an eating or sleeping dog or one that is caring
puppies," states Stickney. "If you wake a dog abruptly you may
scare them, and their territoriality over food and babies may also
cause them to bite."
While children are most likely to be bit by a neighbor's or a
friend's dog, adults are most likely to be bitten by their own dog.
Although the best way to prevent a bite is to alter your own
behavior around dogs, there some precautions you can take with your
"Dogs that have properly socialized and received obedience
training are less likely to bite people or other animals," notes
Stickney. "Also, neutered and spayed dogs are less likely to
If a dog does threaten you by growling, remain calm and stand
still or slowly back away till it leaves.
"If a dog knocks you down to attack you curl into a ball and
protect your face with your arms and fists," advises Stickney. "If
the dog bites you get treatment at a hospital and make sure the dog
is current on its rabies vaccinations."
While dog bites can be harmful to people, they can actually be
just as harmful if not more harmful to other pets.
"Carefully monitor interactions between new dogs and cats,"
states Stickney. "It is best if animals meet each other on neutral
ground, not in the area one considers its territory."
If your pet is bitten by another dog, you will want to take the
pet to your veterinarian immediately.
"Bite wounds in animals are usually worse under the skin then
they appear on the surface and commonly become infected," warns
Stickney. "As when an animal bites a person you will want to
ascertain the rabies vaccination status of the biting animal. You
will also need to know if the bitten animal is current on their
rabies vaccinations as well."
Dogs play an integral role in many people's families. They are
cute and cuddly and for the most part very sweet. However, it is
important to remember that dogs are animals and will react with
animal instincts when threatened or frightened. Taking these
precautions when interacting with a dog or when your animal
interacts with a dog will help keep it a positive experience.
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