With children the most frequent victims of dog bites and dog bites accounting for 5 percent of emergency room victims, a national veterinary organization is offering tips for protecting yourself and your family.>>
In conjunction with the recent observance of national Dog Bite Prevention Week, the American Veterinary Medical Association is urging action to help prevent dog bites. The association has developed a community-based program it says can reduce the incidence of bites. The program is outlined in an 18-page brochure which can be downloaded from the AVMA Web site.
Last year, 4.7 million people were bitten by dogs.
The U.S. Postal Service -- another sponsor of Dog Bite Prevention Week -- cites data from the Humane Society of the United States reporting that that small children, the elderly and Postal Service letter carriers -- in that order -- are the most frequent victims of dog bites. Recent statistics show the annual number of dog attacks exceeds the reported instances of measles, whooping cough, and mumps, combined. In addition, dog bite victims account for up to five percent of emergency room visits.
"When you consider the fact that there are 61 million dogs in the United States, it becomes clear that dog bite prevention is very important," said AVMA President Roger Mahr. "The only known cures for dog bites are training, knowledge and caution. Any dog may bite if it feels threatened, if it's put into an unfamiliar situation, if it's out of control or if it's scared."
"As pediatricians, we often see the harm inflicted when dogs bite children," said Dr. Eileen Ouellette, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "In addition to teaching children about safety -- whether rollerblading or riding in a car -- the AAP hopes families address safety around some of their furry friends."
The AVMA offers the following tips to reducing the risk of dog bites:
Carefully consider your pet selection. Puppies should not be obtained on impulse. Before and after selection, your veterinarian is the best source for information about behavior and suitability.
Make sure your pet is socialized as a young puppy so it feels at ease around people and other animals. Gradually expose your puppy to a variety of situations under controlled circumstances; continue that exposure on a regular basis as your dog gets older. Don't put your dog in a position where it feels threatened or teased.
Wait until your child is older. Because so many dog bites happen to younger children, it is suggested that parents wait until children are older than 4 years of age before getting a dog.
Train your dog. The basic commands "sit," "stay," "no," and "come" can be incorporated into fun activities which build a bond of obedience and trust between pets and people. Avoid highly excitable games like wrestling or tug-of-war. Use a leash in public to control your dog.
Keep your dog healthy. Have your dog vaccinated against rabies and preventable infectious diseases. Parasite control and other health care is important because how your dog feels directly affects how it behaves.
Neuter your pet. It's a fact: neutered dogs are three times less likely to bite.
Be a responsible pet owner. License your dog with the community as required. Obey leash laws. Dogs are social animals; spending time with your pet is important. Dogs that are frequently left alone have a greater chance of developing behavior problems.
Be alert. Know your dog. Be alert to signs of illness. Also watch for signs your dog is uncomfortable or feeling aggressive.
To avoid being bitten, be cautious around strange dogs and treat your own pet with respect.
Because children are the most frequent victims of dog bites, parents and caregivers should never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
The AVMA says young children, including toddlers, should be taught to be careful around pets and to never approach strange dogs. Children should ask permission from a dog's owner before petting the dog.
Children must be taught not to approach strange dogs. Teach children to ask permission from a dog's owner before petting the dog.
Other tips that may present or stop a dog attack
Don't run past a dog: Dogs naturally love to chase and catch things. Don't give them a reason to be come excited or aggressive.
Never disturb a dog that's caring for puppies, sleeping or eating.
If a dog approaches to sniff you, stay still. In most cases, the dog will go away when it determines you are not a threat.
If you are threatened by a dog, remain calm. Don't scream. If you say anything, speak calmly and firmly. Avoid eye contact. Try to stay still until the dog leaves, or back away slowly until the dog is out of sight. Don't turn and run.
If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your head and neck. Protect your face.
If you are bitten by a your own dog, confine it immediately and call your veterinarian to check your dog's vaccination records.
If someone else's dog bit you, first seek medical treatment for the wound. Next, contact authorities and tell them everything you can about the dog: the owner's name, if you know it; the color and size of the dog; where you encountered the dog; and, if and where you've seen it before. These details may help animal-control officers locate the dog. In addition, consider asking your physician if post-exposure rabies treatment may be necessary.