Objectives: This study focuses on the pattern of incidence, mechanisms, and circumstances of accident and injury in a series of pediatric patients who sustained dog bites.
Methods: In our retrospective survey, the medical charts of all children who were younger than 17 years and sought medical attention after a dog bite between 1994 and 2003 were reviewed. To obtain the total number of each dog breed in the administrative district, we analyzed 5873 files from the community dog registers. For establishment of a risk index, the representation of a dog breed among the total canine population was divided by the frequency of dog bites from this breed.
Results: A total of 341 children (mean age: 5.9 years) were identified. The annual incidence of dog bites was 0.5 per 1000 children between 0 and 16 years of age. Incidence was highest in 1-year-old patients and decreased with increasing age. The relative risk for a dog attack by a German shepherd or a Doberman was approximately 5 times higher than that of a Labrador/retriever or cross-breed. The vast majority (82%) of the dogs were familiar to the children. Most (322; 94%) of the children had injuries to 1 body region; in the remaining 19 (6%) children, up to 3 body regions were injured. Of 357 injuries, the face, head, and neck region was the leading site affected (50%). Inpatient treatment was required in 93 (27%) patients.
Conclusions: Dog bites in children are frequent and influenced by the breed-related behavior of dogs, dog owners, children, and parents. Therefore, prevention strategies should focus on public education and training of dogs and their owners. Children who are younger than 10 years represent the high-risk group for dog attacks.