Morbidity of pediatric dog bites: a case series at a level one pediatric trauma center

J Pediatr Surg. 2015 Feb;50(2):343-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2014.09.051. Epub 2014 Dec 26.


Background: Pediatric dog bite injuries are common and vary in severity. We sought to characterize predisposing factors, required interventions, and morbidity.

Methods: A prospective clinical database at a level one pediatric trauma center was reviewed for dog bite injuries over 74 consecutive months ending December 2013. This included all patients brought in by ambulance and/or seen by the trauma team.

Results: Of 650 dog bite incidents, 282 met the criteria for inclusion in the trauma database. Median age was 5 years (range, 2 months to 17 years) and 55% (154/282) of patients were male. Pit bulls were most frequently responsible, accounting for 39% (83/213) of incidents in which dog breed was documented. Fifty-three percent (150/282) of dogs belonged to the patient's immediate or extended family. Sixty-nine percent (194/282) of patients required operative intervention: 76% laceration repairs, 14% tissue transfers, and 2% neurosurgical interventions. The most severe injuries were depressed skull fractures, intracranial hemorrhage, laryngotracheal transection, and bilateral orchiectomy. Median length of stay was 1 day (range, 0 to 25 days). There were no mortalities.

Conclusions: Pediatric dog bites span a wide range of ages, frequently require operative intervention, and can cause severe morbidity. Dog familiarity did not confer safety, and in this series, Pit bulls were most frequently responsible. These findings have great relevance for child safety.

Summary statement: Pediatric dog bites are common and can vary in severity from superficial wounds to life-threatening injuries. Dog familiarity may confer a false sense of safety. A national dog bite prevention and education campaign should be developed with the goal of decreasing the incidence of pediatric dog bites.

Keywords: Dog bite; Injury prevention; Pediatric trauma; Pet safety; Pit bull.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • Arizona / epidemiology
  • Bites and Stings / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Morbidity / trends
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Trauma Centers*