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Dog bite injuries in children: Who is most at risk?

10/3/2014

Boston residents of any age may find themselves victims of dog bites or other animal attacks, but children can be especially vulnerable to being bitten because of their small size and because they may not know how to approach an unfamiliar dog. Dog bites often occur in the head and neck area as well as the arms and hands, leading to severe injuries that can require reconstructive surgery and rehabilitative therapy.

A report released in 2010 by the Massachusetts Department of Health analyzed the data of all injuries to children and youth ages 0 to 19 and found that 2,152 children in one year alone were treated and discharged from the emergency room for dog bite injures. Another 54 were admitted to hospitals, and one child died as a result of the injury.

The report showed that males suffered more dog bite injuries than females during the same period, and males between the ages of 10 and 14 had the highest number of hospital visits related to a dog bite than any other demographic the report looked at. Children between the ages of 1 and 4, however, were the most likely to have to be admitted to the hospital for treatment.

While this particular report did not look at the circumstances surrounding the dog bite incident, it is important to remember that any dog can bite, including dogs who were previously good with children and considered friendly. Pet owners have a responsibility to ensure that their dog is kept confined within a yard or leashed as required by local laws. When they neglect this responsibility, they may be able to be held liable for expenses and emotional distress associated with the victim’s injuries.

Source: Massachusetts Department of Public Health Injury Surveillance Program, “Injuries to Massachusetts children and youth” Deval L. Patrick and Timothy P. Murray, Sep. 29, 2014

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