Background: The objective of this study was to characterize the nature of dog bite injuries treated over a 5-year period at a large tertiary pediatric hospital and to identify relevant parameters for public education and injury prevention.
Methods: Investigators performed a retrospective review of emergency room records of a single tertiary pediatric hospital. Records of all patients who were evaluated for dog bite injuries between April of 2001 and December of 2005 were reviewed. All demographic, patient, and injury details were recorded.
Results: Five hundred fifty-one patients aged 5 months to 18 years were treated in the emergency department after suffering dog bite injuries during the study period. The majority of injuries (62.8 percent) were sustained by male children. Dog bite injuries were most prevalent during the months of June and July (24.1 percent). Grade school-aged children (6 to 12 years) constituted the majority of victims (51 percent), followed by preschoolers (2 to 5 years; 24.0 percent), teenagers (13 to 18 years; 20.5 percent), and infants (birth to 1 year; 4.5 percent). Injuries sustained by infants and preschoolers often involved the face (53.5 percent), whereas older children sustained injuries to the extremities (60.7 percent). More than 30 different offending breeds were documented in the medical records. The most common breeds included pit bull terriers (50.9 percent), Rottweilers (8.9 percent), and mixed breeds of the two aforementioned breeds (6 percent).
Conclusions: Pediatric dog bites are preventable injuries, yet they persist as a prevalent public health problem. Evaluation of data from high-volume tertiary pediatric health care institutions identifies predictable patterns of injury with respect to patient age and gender, animal breed, provocation, and seasonality.