How to Guard Against Dog Bites

Many of the nearly 5 million bites a year in U.S. are preventable, experts say

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TUESDAY, May 24, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Dogs bite about 4.7 million people in the United States every year, but education and proper training and control of dogs can prevent many attacks, experts say.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) are among four U.S. medical organizations joining other groups to raise awareness during National Dog Bite Prevention Week, May 15 to 21.

Because they often treat victims of dog attacks, plastic surgeons see firsthand how devastating dog bite injuries can be. There were nearly 33,000 reconstructive procedures on dog bite victims in the United States in 2010, an 8 percent increase from 2009, according to the ASPS.

"Unfortunately, the majority of reconstructive surgeries to treat dog bites are performed on children," ASPS President Dr. Phillip Haeck said in an AAP news release. "Children are frequently bitten on the face, which can result in severe lacerations, infection and permanent scarring."

Children are about three times more likely than adults to be bitten by a dog, studies have found. Each year, about 600,000 children in the United States require medical attention for dog bites.

Advice about how dog owners can prevent their dogs from biting, how people can avoid being bitten, and how to treat dog bites is outlined in a brochure offered by the AAP, United States Postal Service and the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Among the ways you can protect yourself and your family from dog bites:

  • Babies and small child should always be supervised and never left alone with a dog.
  • Teach children to ask the dog owner for permission before petting any dog.
  • Before touching an unfamiliar dog, let the animal sniff you or your child first. Pet the dog gently, avoiding the face and tail.
  • If a dog is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies, leave it alone.
  • Walk, don't run, when passing a dog.
  • If a situation occurs where you or your child feels threatened by a dog, remember to remain calm, avoid eye contact and stand still or back away slowly until the dog leaves.
  • A person who gets knocked down by a threatening dog should curl into a ball and protect their face using their arms and fists.

More information

Here's where you can find the dog bite prevention brochure.

SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, May 11, 2011


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