JoAnna Lou
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Dog Bites on the Rise
Hospitalization for dog bites doubled in 15 years


According to a new government study, the number of Americans hospitalized for dog bites almost doubled between 1993 and 2008. The researchers at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the department responsible for the survey, are at a loss to explain the increase. The popularity of pets in recent years doesn’t account for the spike, as their numbers have only increased slightly. 

At first I thought that the higher number may have to do with the change in how society views pets. Today, more dogs live inside the home and have more daily contact with people (increasing the chance of a bite). However, the study found that residents of rural areas made four times as many emergency room visits due to dog bites than people living in non-rural areas, presumably where dogs are more likely to be living outside. Maybe better socialization or urban basic obedience classes can explain this aspect of the statistics?

I do hope that more research is done to follow up on this study. It’s important to find out what factors are influencing the dramatic increase in dog bites.

Whatever the cause may be, this study highlights the importance of learning how to prevent dog bites. Children under five (and adults 65 and older) were most likely to be hospitalized after a bite, do it’s important to teach our kids how to interact with and behave around dogs.

Why do you think that dog bites are on the rise?


JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by david_shankbone/flickr.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Pamela | December 14 2010 |

I have a question: is it possible that people didn't go to the hospital for certain bites in the past. That they were just treated at home?

Submitted by Frances | December 14 2010 |

I suspect there are many of factors at play. People in general less able to read dog body language, children in particular often seeing dogs as mobile cuddly toys, the rise in electronic fences, a greater propensity to seek medical (and legal) advice for injuries that would have been treated at home in the past ... and perhaps we are even breeding or raising dogs that are more prone to biting when fearful or angry.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 28 2011 |

The number of dogs did increase by 50% in that time, but not 100%.

Since most hospitalizations were for elderly victims it could be that there are simply more elderly in the country with dogs as baby boomers age.

It could also be because more elderly have insurance that covers newer and more expensive procedures, like the skin graphs, that the hospitalized patients are being treated with.

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