Will That Dog Bite?

by Dr. Kathryn Sarpong, DVM

Dog bites are a concern for dog owners, parents of young children, and anyone that comes into contact with dogs.  According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 4 million people are bitten by dogs each year and more than 30,000 people may require surgery for bite wounds. Most injuries are minor, but approximately 1 in 5 bites require some form of medical treatment.  Children in the 5-9 year old age range have the highest injury rate.  According the the CDC, there is no one breed of dog that is likely to bite – 25 breeds of dogs were involved with the bites reported last year.  Any dog might bite (even yours) given a set of circumstances leading to fear, pain, aggression, or anxiety.

Parents should educate children on how to act around dogs.  Children, especially young children should not be around dogs unsupervised.  Most bites to young children are to the head and neck area, and boys are significantly more likely to be bitten than girls.  All children should know the following suggestions to reduce the likelihood of being bitten:

  • Do not approach unknown dogs or dogs whose owners are not present
  • Do not pet a dog that is eating, sleeping or playing with a toy
  • Do not approach a dog caring for puppies
  • Never hit, tease, or play aggressively with a dog – even the family pet
  • Ask before petting a dog
  • Do not run, scream, or make sudden movements near dogs
  • Stand still if a dog approaches you and do not make direct eye contact
  • If you think the dog is aggressive, place something between you and the dog (adult, bike, or backpack)
  • If knocked down by a dog, roll into a ball and stay still
  • Report roaming dogs immediately to an adult

Dogs with histories of aggression should not live in the same households as children.  Do not teach or tolerate rough play with your dog (wrestling, pretend growling, etc.).  Spaying and neutering frequently reduces aggression in dogs. Socialize your dog, especially when the dog is a young puppy 6-16 weeks.

There is no one breed that is responsible for dog bites.  Breed bans are not effective according to the CDC at reducing dog bites.  Any aggressive dog should be removed from a situation of potential adverse events and medical help should be sought.

More information is available on the ASPCA website.

When helping an injured dog (whether your own or a stray), take precautions to avoid getting bitten. A hurt stray dog that bites may be euthanized by the city, so protecting yourself also protects the dog.  A knee high sock can serve as a makeshift muzzle when moving a hurt dog.  If you are uncomfortable rendering aid, please call animal control (dial 311 in Dallas), a veterinary technician, or veterinarian for assistance.  Dogs that are in pain will bite even if they have a sweet temperament normally.

If you are bitten by a dog, seek medical attention if needed and in Dallas call 311 to report the bite to animal control.  This is important to prevent rabies infection if the animal is not properly vaccinated.  Usually animal control will institute a quarantine of the animal to monitor the dog for any symptoms of diseases contagious to you.  Rabies is fatal is contracted so early intervention is essential to save lives.

So yes, that dog may bite.  Treat dogs with the respect and kindness they deserve and we can leave peacefully with “man’s best friend”.