Dog bite

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Dog bite
USN Medic Louis Kost gets attacked by Bruno crop retouch.tif
Military working dog training to attack by biting
Classification and external resources
Specialty Emergency Medicine, Plastic surgery, Pediatric Medicine, Veterinary Medicine
ICD-10 W54
ICD-9-CM E906.0
MedlinePlus 000888
eMedicine emerg/

A dog bite is a bite inflicted upon a person, a group of persons or another animal by a dog. One or more successive bites is often considered a dog attack. The majority of dog bites do not result in injury, disfigurement, infection or permanent disability. Another type of dog bite is the 'soft bite' displayed by well-trained dogs, puppies and in non-aggressive play.[1] Situations in which dog bites occur include dog fighting, mistreatment, trained dogs acting as guard or military animals, provoked or unprovoked.[2]

There is considerable debate on whether or not certain breeds of dogs are inherently more prone to commit attacks causing serious injury (i.e., so driven by instinct and breeding that, under certain circumstances, they are exceedingly likely to attempt or commit dangerous attacks). Regardless of the breed of the dog, it is recognized that the risk of dangerous dog attacks can be greatly increased by human actions (such as neglect or fight training) or inactions (as carelessness in confinement and control).

Significant dog bites affect tens of millions of people globally each year.[3] It is estimated that two percent of the US population, from 4.5–4.7 million people, are bitten by dogs each year.[4] Most bites occur in children.[5] In the 1980s and 1990s the US averaged 17 fatalities per year, while in the 2000s this has increased to 26.[6] 77% of dog bites are from the pet of family or friends, and 50% of attacks occur on the dog owner's property.[6] Animal bites, most of which are from dogs, are the reason for 1% of visits to an emergency department in the United States.[5]

Health effects[edit]

Wound on a child received from a dog bite

Rabies results in the death of approximately 55,000 people a year, with most of the causes due to dog bites.[3] Capnocytophaga canimorsus, MRSA, tetanus, and Pasteurella can be transmitted from a dog to someone bitten by the dog.[7] Bergeyella zoohelcum is an emerging infection transmitted through dog bites.[8] Infection with B. zoohelcum from dog bites can lead to bacteremia.[9]


Even without provocation, some dogs will bite.[10][11]


All dog breeds can inflict a bite.[5] Breed is not an accurate predictor of whether or not a dog will bite.[12] In the US pit bull-type and Rottweilers most frequently are identified breeds in cases of severe bites.[5][12] This may be due to their size. These breeds are more frequently owned by people involved in crime.[12]

From 2000 to 2009, media accounts were compared with reports available from animal control officials. It was determined that in a sample of 256 dog bite-related fatalities, breed could only be validly determined in 45 cases, and the attacks in these 45 cases were dispersed among 20 different breeds and 2 known mixes. For a further set of 401 dogs in media accounts of dog bite-related fatalities, breed determination differed between different media accounts of the same attack 31% of the time, factoring in animal control accounts produced disagreement on breed for 40% of attacks.[13]

A 2000 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports of 327 people killed by dogs "pit bull terrier" or mixes thereof were reportedly involved in 76 cases. The breed with the next-highest number of attributed fatalities was the Rottweiler and mixes thereof, with 44 fatalities.[14] Pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers are disproportionately more dangerous than other dog breeds, the American Veterinary Medical Association released a statement that this study "cannot be used to infer any breed specific risk for dog bite fatalities".[15] These figures reporting certain breeds as being more prone to biting has found those to be the breeds in the greatest population where the dog bites are reported.

A 2015 study in Ireland found that dog bite injuries greatly increased since the introduction of legislation targeting specific dog breeds.[16] This study also suggested that targeting dog breeds may actually contribute to increases in dog-bite hospitalisations through the reinforcing of incorrect stereotypes of risk being determined by breed.[16] The study reported that as a result of targeting dog breeds, stereotypes of the dangerousness of certain breeds and assuming the safety of others simply due to their breed may result in people incorrectly interacting with dogs from both categories.[16]


a muzzled dog

Legislative bodies have addressed concerns about dog bites that include licensing laws, statutes outlawing organized dogfights, and leash laws. Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL), has been enacted in some areas limiting the ownership and activities of dogs perceived to be more likely to bite and attack.[17][18][19][20] This breed specific regulations are usually directed toward those animals perceived to be Rottweilers, American Staffordshire Bull Terriers ("Pit Bulls"), Chow Chows, German Shepherd Dogs, and Doberman Pinschers, "breeds traditionally known as 'dangerous,' or those that have demonstrated particular propensities for aggression and violent behavior". Though effective in reducing the number of bites and attacks from dogs, such prevention measures are often opposed by dog owners. To prevent dog bites, some regulations intend to make the owner liable for bites of their dogs.[2]

Other measures in preventing dog bites are signage ("Beware of Dog") and locked dog enclosures.[2] Dog owners often oppose protective regulations in the courts claiming either that the regulations will not prevent bites and attacks and/or their rights as dog owners are being infringed.[21][22][23]

A dog's thick fur protects it to some degree from the bite of another dog.[24]

Human activities may increase the risk of a dog bite as does age, height, and movement. The CDC and the American Veterinary Medical Association have published recommendations which encourage those that are around dogs to:

  • not approach an unfamiliar dog.[25][26]
  • not run from a dog.
  • Remain motionless when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
  • Curl into a ball, while protecting your head and ears if knocked over.
  • not panic or make loud noises.
  • Report dogs that are behaving strangely.
  • Do not disturb a dog that is caring for puppies.
  • not pet a strange dog
  • not encourage your dog to play aggressively.
  • not allow small children to play with a dog unsupervised.[26]
  • Avoid the family dog if it is ill
  • Avoid waking the dog, call the dog by name
  • Avoid retrieving objects from the dog's mouth
  • Avoid face-to-face interaction with the dog
  • not disturb the dog while the animal is eating.
  • reduce the dog's interaction with children[27]
  • not attempt to break up a dog fight.[28]

Dog behavior[edit]

In isolation, predatory behaviors are rarely the cause of an attack on a human. Predatory aggression is more commonly involved as a contributing factor for example in attacks by multiple dogs; a "pack kill instinct" may arise if multiple dogs are involved in an attack.[29]


A common veterinary treatment for a dog biting another dog is to shave the fur, clean the wound, and put in a staple.

The risk of a serious infection can be reduced by cleaning the wound and getting appropriate health care treatment.

Local animal control agencies or police are sometimes able to capture the animal and determine whether or not it is infected with rabies. This is important if the dog appears sick or is acting strangely.[26]


Significant dog bites affect tens of millions of people globally each year.[3] It is estimated that 1.5 - 2 percent of the US population, from 4.5–4.7 million people, are bitten by dogs yearly.[30] Pit bulls bit and killed 21 people during the 1980s.[31][32] Most bites occur in children.[5] In the 1980s and 1990s the US averaged 17 fatalities per year, while in the 2000s this has increased to 26.[6] 77% of dog bites are from the pet of family or friends, and 50% of attacks occur on the dog owner's property.[6] Animal bites, most of which are from dogs, are the reason for 1% of visits to an emergency department in the United States.[5] Young children are sustain bites by familiar or family dogs during normal activities. Some people, like the very young or the very old are more susceptible to being bitten by a dog.[27]

More serious injuries from dogs are often described in the media.[33][2] In 2010, more people were killed by dogs (34) than were hit by lightning (29).[34][35] Emergency room visits and treatment by those bitten number in the thousands.[36]

In a study of 1616 dog attacks treated by the emergency room staff at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, 58% of all pediatric patients bitten by dogs needed treatment for lacerations and 5.5% of all those treated required an operation to make repairs. Very young children (infants) were more than six times more likely to bitten by a family pet and over six times more likely to sustain injuries in their neck and head. Children aged five and younger needed treatment and repair 62% of the time. Those dogs identified as Pit bulls were implicated in 50% of the bites needing surgical treatment of the child. Dogs identified as pit bulls were more likely to make multiple bites in different body areas of the children.[37]

Society and culture[edit]


About 5,900 Austrians are treated annually after being bitten by dogs. One fifth of those injured are children.[38]

United States[edit]

Controversy exists on whether or not certain breeds of dogs are more prone to bite than others. Although some research suggests that breed-specific legislation is not completely effective in preventing dog bites, efforts to establish regulations limiting dogs that bite is ongoing.[2] The rights of animals is often in question. The targeting of specific dog breed creates stereotypes. This influences the perceived risk of sustaining a bite from a dog of a particular breed.[16]

Dog owners are liable for the bites and injuries that their dog causes to people or other dogs. States that enact legislation that assigns liability are Michigan,[11] Rhode Island,[40] Florida, California, and Texas.[41] [42][43][44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Reinforce Your Dog's Bite Inhibition - Whole Dog Journal". 
  2. ^ a b c d e Weiss, Linda S. (2001). "Breed-Specific Legislation in the United States". Animal Legal & Historical Center. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c "Animal bites Fact sheet N°373". World Health Organization. February 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  4. ^ "Dog Bite Prevention". CDC. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Ellis, R; Ellis, C (Aug 15, 2014). "Dog and cat bites.". American family physician. 90 (4): 239–43. PMID 25250997. 
  6. ^ a b c d Statistics about dog bites in the USA and elsewhere
  7. ^ "Human Rabies Prevention, United States, Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices" (PDF). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2008. p. 2. Retrieved April 25, 2017.   This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  8. ^ Chen, Yili; Liao, Kang; Ai, Lu; Guo, Penghao; Huang, Han; Wu, Zhongwen; Liu, Min (2017). "Bacteremia caused by Bergeyella zoohelcum in an infective endocarditis patient: case report and review of literature". BMC Infectious Diseases. 17 (1). ISSN 1471-2334. doi:10.1186/s12879-017-2391-z. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Reinforce Your Dog's Bite Inhibition". Whole Dog Journal. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  11. ^ a b "Couple Whose Dogs Fatally Mauled Jogger Charged With Murder". WWJ. August 1, 2014. Retrieved August 5, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c "Dog Bite Risk and Prevention: The Role of Breed". American Veterinary Medical Association. March 12, 2015. 
  13. ^ Patronek, Gary J.; Sacks, Jeffrey J.; Delise, Karen M.; Cleary, Donald V.; Marder, Amy R. (15 December 2013). "Co-occurrence of potentially preventable factors in 256 dog bite–related fatalities in the United States (2000–2009)". Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Schaumburg, Illinois, USA: American Veterinary Medical Association. 243 (12): 1726–1736. PMID 24299544. doi:10.2460/javma.243.12.1726. 
  14. ^ April 11, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ "American Veterinary Medical Association Statement on 'Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks in the United States between 1979 and 1998'" (PDF). American Veterinary Medical Association. 2000. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-04-11. Retrieved 2016-01-23. 
  16. ^ a b c d Ó Súilleabháin, Páraic (April 2015). "Human hospitalisations due to dog bites in Ireland, 1998-2013: Implications for current breed specific legislation". The Veterinary Journal. Retrieved April 23, 2015. 
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ Miklosi, A. (2007). "Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition". ISBN 9780199295852. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199295852.001.0001. subscription required
  25. ^ "Dog-Bite-Related Fatalities – United States, 1995–1996". Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 1997-05-30. Retrieved 2008-10-29. 
  26. ^ a b c "Preventing Dog Bites". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. May 18, 2015. Retrieved April 25, 2017.   This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  27. ^ a b "Dog Bite Prevention". American Veterinary Medical Association. 2017. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  28. ^ "Tips for Stopping a Dog Fight". Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  29. ^ Tips for Stopping a Dog Fight
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Dog Bite Prevention". CDC. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  33. ^ Reuters (2004-10-13). "Stray dog pack attacks Albanian town". IOL. Retrieved 2008-01-21. An Albanian town had to call in police and hunters after a pack of 200 stray mountain dogs attacked at least nine people. Headed by a clearly identifiable leader, the snarling pack overran the main street of the small northern town of Mamurras, its mayor said on Wednesday. "Even in the movies I have never seen a horde of 200 stray dogs from the mountains attacking people in the middle of a town," Anton Frroku said on Wednesday. He said the dogs bit at least nine people, aged from 20 to 60, dragging them to the ground and inflicting serious wounds. 
  34. ^
  35. ^ "Injury Facts Chart". National Safety Council. Retrieved 2015-04-09. 
  36. ^
  37. ^ Golinko, Michael S.; Arslanian, Brian; Williams, Joseph K. (2017). "Characteristics of 1616 Consecutive Dog Bite Injuries at a Single Institution". Clinical Pediatrics. 56 (4): 316–325. ISSN 0009-9228. doi:10.1177/0009922816657153. 
  38. ^ "Tausende Verletzte durch Hundebisse(Thousands injured by dog bites)" (in German). Die Presse. October 5, 2011. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  39. ^ People v. Frazier, 173 Cal. App. 4th 613 (2009).
  40. ^ Russo, Chris. "The Myth Of Dogs Being Allowed One Bite Free". 
  41. ^ Priebe v. Nelson, 39 Cal. 4th 1112 (2006).
  42. ^ California Food and Agricultural Code Section 31601(a).
  43. ^ See California Court Forms MC-600, MC-601, MC-602, and MC-603
  44. ^ The notice of a hearing bears the warning: "DO NOT BRING THE DOG TO THE HEARING.""California Court Form MC-601" (PDF). 

External links[edit]