A dog bite can cause significant psychological and physical damage. If it is on the face, it often requires reconstructive surgery to repair injuries ranging from nerve damage to tissue loss. In the United States alone, almost five million people are bitten by dogs every year, and children are at a much higher risk than adults.
It is known that certain races bite more frequently or cause more serious injuries, but according to a new study that comes from the Ohio State University School of Medicine and the Wexner Medical Center, the breed is unknown in approximately 60% of bite episodes. The work has managed to identify dog breeds and physical traits that present a greater danger of attacking and causing serious injuries. For its authors, it is vital information that parents should use when deciding which pet to have.
Pit bulls and with wide heads
The study, published in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, explores the risks of dog bite injuries in children’s faces and the severity of the bite by race, size and head structure. Researchers have discovered that pit bulls and mixed breed dogs have a greater propensity to bite and cause higher damage. The same goes for dogs with wide and short heads that weigh between 30 and 45 kilos.
According to Dr. Garth Essig, lead author and otolaryngologist at the Wexner Medical Center, “because mixed breed dogs represent an important part of dog bites, and we often did not know what type of dog was involved in these incidents, we observed additional factors that can help predict the tendency of bites when the breed is unknown, such as weight and head.
To assess the severity of the bite, researchers reviewed 15 years of cases of dog-related facial trauma at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the University of Virginia Health System. They observed the size of the wound, the tearing of the tissue, the bone fractures and other injuries serious enough to justify the consultation of a facial traumatologist and a reconstructive surgeon, and created a scale of severity of the damage.
The researchers also conducted an extensive literature search, from 1970 to the present, on incidents with dogs in which the breed was reported to determine the relative risk of biting each of them. This was combined with hospital data to determine the relative risk of bite and tissue damage.
“It is estimated that there are 83 million dogs owned in the US and that number continues to increase,” says Essig. “We wanted to provide families with information to help them determine the risk to their children and inform them about what type of dogs are most suitable in homes with children.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs annually in this country, and 20% of these victims require medical attention for their injuries, especially children from 5 to 9 years.
“The little ones are especially vulnerable to dog bites because they find it difficult to notice the subtle signs of a dog that is going to bite,” adds Charles Elmaraghy, co-author of the study and head of otolaryngology at Nationwide Hospital. “As a consequence, we see from simple lacerations to lesions in which there is a significant loss of tissue that needs grafts or other reconstructive surgery.”
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