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February 01, 2011


 Hospitalizations for dog bites nearly double in 16 years


Dog showing teeth 


posted January 18, 2011


Hospitalizations for dog bites in the United States jumped 86 percent over a 16-year period, according to a recent government analysis.

This past December the Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality announced the total number of people hospitalized because of dog bite-related injures had increased from 5,100 in 1993 to 9,500 in 2008.

Also in the report, "Emergency Department Visits and Inpatient Stays Involving Dog Bites, 2008," the AHRQ estimates that dog bites resulted in 316,000 emergency department visits in 2008. These findings translate into an average of 866 emergency department visits and 26 hospitalizations for dog bite injuries every day during 2008, according to the HHS agency.

The AHRQ based its estimates on data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project's 2008 Nationwide Inpatient Sample—the largest inpatient care database in the United States, containing information from approximately 8 million annual hospital stays—and the 2008 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample. Historical inpatient data were drawn from the 1993-2007 NIS.

An estimated 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs annually in the United States, according to the AVMA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, some 800,000 receive medical attention. The AHRQ report suggests a relatively small number of dog bite victims require more intensive treatment.

Infection is the number one reason for hospitalization, the report stated, followed by open wounds on the extremities and wounds on the head, neck, and trunk. Other injuries ranged from fractures to blood poisoning.

The AHRQ also found seniors and young children were most likely to be hospitalized for a dog bite. The highest rates of dog bite-related emergency department visits were for children under the age of 10: 199.3 visits per 100,000 people for 5- to 9-year-olds and 175 visits per 100,000 people for children younger than 5.

Males were seen in the emergency department at a higher rate for dog bites than were females—110.4 versus 97.8 visits per 100,000 people—whereas there were no gender differences in dog bite-related hospital stays, according to the report.

Additionally, there were four times as many dog bite-related emergency department visits and three times as many hospital stays in rural areas as there were in urban areas.

Dog bite-related emergency department visits were highest in the Midwest and Northeast and lowest in the West, while dog bite-related hospitalizations were highest in the Northeast and lowest in the West, according to the report.

"Emergency Department Visits and Inpatient Stays Involving Dog Bites, 2008" is available on the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project website,, by clicking on "Reports," then "Statistical Briefs," and finally "Emergency departments." The report is also posted on the AVMA website,, in the "Dog bite prevention" section under Public Health.