Objective: To estimate the incidence of dog bites in the USA and compare it with similar estimates from 1994.
Design: Nationally representative cross-sectional, list-assisted, random-digit-dialed telephone survey conducted during 2001-2003.
Methods: Weighted estimates were generated from data collected by surveying 9684 households during 2001-2003 and compared with results from a similar survey conducted in 1994. Estimates for persons aged 15-17 years were extrapolated on the basis of rates for 10-14-year-olds.
Results: Whereas the incidence of dog bites among adults remained relatively unchanged, there was a significant (47%) decline in the incidence of dog bites among children compared with that observed in the 1994 survey, particularly among boys and among those aged 0-4 years. Between 2001 and 2003, an estimated 4 521 300 persons were bitten each year. Of these, 885 000 required medical attention (19%). Children were more likely than adults to receive medical attention for a dog bite. Among adults, bite rates decreased with increasing age. Among children and adults, having a dog in the household was associated with a significantly increased incidence of dog bites, with increasing incidence also related to increasing numbers of dogs.
Conclusions: Dog bites continue to be a public health problem affecting 1.5% of the US population annually. Although comparison with similar data from 1994 suggests that bite rates for children are decreasing, there still appears to be a need for effective prevention programs.