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K-State Today

May 21, 2014

One Health Kansas and partners offer tips to prevent dog bites; May 18-24 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week

Submitted by Jodi Freifeld

Each year 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States and half of these are children. Nearly 800,000 bites are serious enough to require medical attention. In Kansas, there were 279 people hospitalized for dog bites from 2007–2011. Sixty-two, or 23 percent, of the 279 people hospitalized were children less than nine years of age.

May 18-24 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week.

"Dogs are wonderful companions for many individuals and families," said Ingrid Garrison, state public health veterinarian. "Unfortunately children are the most common victims of dog bites and they are often bitten by dogs they know."

Many of these bites are preventable through a combined effort of responsible dog ownership and adults teaching children how, or if, they should approach a dog. Suggestions on how to approach a dog include:

  • Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Do not run from a dog or scream.
  • Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
  • "Be still like a tree" when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
  • Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
  • Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and be still.
  • Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior.
  • If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.

"Ask your veterinarian if you are concerned about your dog's behavior," said Gary Reser, executive director of the Kansas Veterinary Medical Association. "They can determine if there is a medical issue or provide you with training resources."

Other ways dog owners can help include spaying or neutering their dog, as this often reduces aggressive tendencies, and properly training and socializing their dog.

"Never leave a child alone with any dog," said Beth Montelone, director of One Health Kansas and associate dean for research in the College of Arts & Sciences. "Any dog can bite under particular circumstances."

Additional information on dog bite prevention can be found on the American Veterinary Medical Association's website. Posters, bookmarks and information cards in English and Spanish can be downloaded from the One Health Kansas website.