Did you know that each year, more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs? You may be asking yourself “Why are there so many dog bites?” When you consider that an estimated 70 million dogs currently reside in U.S. households, it’s not surprising to hear that so many bites are occurring.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, children are the most common victims of dog bites, followed by senior citizens. What may be even more surprising is that the majority of bites affecting children occur during interactions with familiar dogs.
One of the primary concerns associated with animal bites is the transmission of rabies. Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, causing disease in the brain and ultimately death.
In the event you or someone you know is bitten, wash any wounds immediately, as thoroughly washing with soap and water is one of the most effective ways to decrease the chance of infection, and seek evaluation from your primary care provider (or local urgent care/emergency room depending on severity of the wound) so they may assess the need/extent of treatment.
If you are an animal owner, it is essential to ensure that your pet is properly vaccinated against harmful, infectious diseases. Your veterinarian can recommend the appropriate immunizations to keep your dog healthy.
Additionally, ensure that you license your dog with your community as required and obey leash laws. Be alert and know your dog; don’t ignore signs of distress or aggressive behavior. Avoid placing your dog in situations where it may feel threatened. Teach children never to approach an unfamiliar animal and discourage them from reaching through or over a fence to pet a dog.
Lastly, if you or someone you know is bitten, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention; it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
For more information on dog bite prevention and the harmful effects of rabies, visit the following sites: https://www.avma.org/public/Pages/Dog-Bite-Prevention.aspx and http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/ or contact the 75th Medical Group Community Health Section at 801-586-9660.