Background: Dog bites to children have increasingly come to the forefront of public attention in recent years, especially attacks by certain breeds classified as aggressive. Dog bites account for approximately 1 % of all emergency pediatric department visits and 75 % of these bites occur in children. Although these lesions are rarely serious, 20-45 % of children under the age of 15 years have been bitten.
Objective: To analyze the reality of this problem in our population in order to determine the ideal prehospital preventive measures that would reduce the incidence of dog bites.
Materials and methods: A retrospective study of children with dog bites who received emergency treatment in the Hospital Infantil Teresa Herrera of the Complejo Hospitalario Juan Canalejo in La Coruña, Spain, between 1991 and 2000 was undertaken. A register of patients was created that included data on age and sex of the children, the race of the dog, the relationship between the child and the animal, characteristics of the injuries, circumstances of the attack, probable sequelae, need for hospital admission and complications during treatment. Nonparametric data were analyzed using Pearson's 2 test. The Ox ratio was estimated with a 95 % confidence interval (0.05).
Results: In the 10-year period between January 1991 and December 2000, 654 patients under the age of 14 years were treated for dog bite-related injuries. The mean age was 5.09 years. A greater number of boys had been bitten than girls (2.75/1). In 79 % of the cases the dogs were known (family, friends, neighbors). Thirty-eight percent of the attacks were made by German Shepherds and 35 % by crossed breeds. Sixty-five percent of the bites were located on the head, face and neck, especially in patients aged less than 4 years. Five percent of the lesions were severe. Thirteen patients were admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit and 98 patients required hospitalization due to the characteristics of the injuries. The mean hospital stay was 6 days. Infectious complications occurred in 32 patients.
Conclusions: Although dog bite-related injuries to children in our community are rarely serious, they can produce important facial cosmetic sequelae. The high incidence of these lesions indicates the need for preventive measures and public policy strategies.