Retrospective review of dog bite injuries in children presenting to a South Australian tertiary children's hospital emergency department

J Paediatr Child Health. 2014 Oct;50(10):791-4. doi: 10.1111/jpc.12642. Epub 2014 Jul 7.


Aim: To describe the characteristics, circumstances and consequences of dog bite injuries in children in order to inform the discourse concerning preventative approaches.

Method: A retrospective review of children presenting to the emergency department (ED) of the Women's and Children's Hospital (WCH) in South Australia between the years 2009 and 2011 was performed.

Results: A total of 277 children presented to the WCH with dog bite injuries between 2009 and 2011. Of those, 141(51.0%) were referred for admission. Injury rates were highest in those aged 0-4, declining thereafter with age. In the 0-4 year age group, 89.5% of children presented after being bitten by a familiar dog with 92.5% occurring at home. The head/neck region constituted the most common location for injuries. We found that 67.5% of dog bite injuries were provoked and occurred between the child and a familiar dog (78.0%). Dogs from the bull terrier group (20.0%) and Jack Russell Terriers (11.0%) were the two most documented breeds. Almost half of the children presenting during the specified timeframe required at least one operation under a general anaesthetic. Two children were referred to a psychologist for management of post-traumatic stress.

Conclusion: Dog bite injuries are common in children and often require admission for inpatient care. This presents as a significant public health burden. For this reason, prevention initiatives need to be implemented on an ongoing basis.

Keywords: children; community; dog bite; emergency medicine; general paediatrics.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Animals
  • Arm Injuries / epidemiology
  • Bites and Stings / epidemiology*
  • Bites and Stings / prevention & control
  • Bites and Stings / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dogs
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Emergency Treatment / methods*
  • Emergency Treatment / statistics & numerical data
  • Facial Injuries / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Pediatric
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Leg Injuries / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Prevention / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Distribution
  • South Australia
  • Tertiary Care Centers