Children Have an Increased Risk of Periorbital Dog Bite Injuries

J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2020 Jan;78(1):91-100. doi: 10.1016/j.joms.2019.08.021. Epub 2019 Sep 5.


Purpose: Dog bites to the head, neck, and face (HNF) disproportionately affect children. It is unclear if specific facial regions are uniquely at risk in this population. Both the periorbital region and the central target area (CTA; nose, lips, and cheeks) have been proposed as being at increased risk. This study addressed the following question: Among individuals sustaining a dog bite injury to the HNF, are children, when compared with adults, at greater risk of injury to the periorbital region or CTA?

Patients and methods: Using a retrospective cohort design, we enrolled a sample composed of patients presenting with HNF dog bite injuries. The predictor variable was age category: pediatric or adult (≥18 years). The primary outcome variable was injury location: isolated periorbital, isolated CTA, both periorbital and CTA, or other HNF location (neither periorbital nor CTA). Other variables included specific facial structures injured, demographic characteristics, injury circumstances, and clinical course. Descriptive and bivariate statistics were calculated.

Results: The sample consisted of 183 pediatric (58.5%) and 130 adult (41.5%) patients. Isolated periorbital injuries were more common in the pediatric group (relative risk [RR], 2.2 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.3 to 3.7]; P = .003), as was injury to both periorbital and CTA regions (RR, 2.0 [95% CI, 1.2 to 3.5]; P = .01). Isolated CTA injury was the most common injury pattern overall in both children and adults, but children were at significantly less risk than adults (RR, 0.7 [95% CI, 0.5 to 0.9]; P = .002). Children were also less likely to sustain an injury to other HNF regions (RR, 0.6 [95% CI, 0.3 to 0.97]; P = .038).

Conclusions: Children were twice as likely as adults to incur a periorbital dog bite, but no such increased risk was observed for the CTA. This may reflect unique anatomic risks in children or targeting of their eyes by attacking dogs, contributing to higher rates of HNF injury in this population. Public health measures should recommend against children being at eye level with dogs, even if familiar or under adult supervision.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Bites and Stings*
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dogs
  • Facial Injuries*
  • Humans
  • Public Health
  • Retrospective Studies