We all love our furry four legged friends and treat them like our own children; however, there are canine behavioral traits that every responsible pet owner needs to be aware of. By nature, the vast majority of dogs in American households (70 million) tend to be properly trained and socialized; however, even the cuddliest, fuzziest, sweetest pup can bite if provoked. National Dog Bite Prevention Week takes place during the third full week of May each year, and focuses on educating people about preventing dog bites. If you are concerned about episodes of unprovoked aggression by your dog Dr. Charles Whitworth at Whitworth Animal Clinic can help. Dr. Whitworth provides veterinary services to pets from Madison, Huntsville, and the surrounding Madison County areas.
Canine Preventive Health Care
It is extremely important that you make sure your pet receives preventive health care and treatment for illnesses or injuries. Have your dog vaccinated annually against rabies, checked for parasites, and other preventable infectious diseases – how your dog feels affects how it behaves. Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep it healthy and provide mental stimulation and don’t contribute to our nation’s pet overpopulation problem: limit your pet’s reproduction through spay/neuter, containment or managed breeding. A healthy dog is a happy dog and less likely to exhibit unpredictable behavior such as aggression or biting.
From Nips & Bites to Actual Attacks
Dg biting occurs for most people from their own dog or one they know. Some owners actually promote aggression in their dogs or allow aggression to go unchecked. Although media reports and rumors often give the impression that certain breeds of dog are more likely to bite, there is little scientific evidence to support those claims. Several national agencies and associations have spent years compiling statistics related to dog bites in America. The numbers are alarming; fortunately, there are steps we can take to address and lower the following statistics:
• 4.5 million people are bitten annually with 800,000 people (1 in 5) receiving medical attention – approximately 12 of those bites are fatal.
• Children are the most common victims of dog bites and are more likely to be severely injured while interacting with familiar dogs during every day activities. The American Humane Association reports that 66% of bites among children occur to the head and neck. According to the CDC, between 2003 though 2012, dog bites were the: 11th leading cause of nonfatal injury to children ages 1-4; 9th for ages 5-9; and 10th for ages 10-14.
• Senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims.
• The Insurance Information Institute estimated that in 2013, insurers across the country paid over $483 million in dog bite claims.
• The American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery reports that according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 26,935 reconstructive procedures were performed in 2013 to repair injuries caused by dog bites.
• The U.S. Postal Service reports that 5,581 postal employees were attacked by dogs in 2013.
How to Avoid a Dog Bite
There are many things you can do to avoid dog biting, ranging from properly training and socializing your pet to educating your children on how, or if, they should approach a dog. Information and education are the best solutions for this public health crisis. The majority of dog bites, if not all, are preventable.
• Because children are the most common victims of dog bites, parents and caregivers should never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
• Teach children, including toddlers, to be careful around pets. It is very common for children to be attracted to dogs and must be taught not to approach strange dogs or try to pet dogs by reaching through fences.
• Teach your children to ask permission from the dog’s owner before petting a dog.
• Be cautious around strange dogs and alert for potentially dangerous situations. Don’t give them a reason to become excited or aggressive.
• Don’t run past a dog as they naturally love to chase and catch things. If you are chased, fall to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your head and neck and protect your face.
• Don’t scream or yell. If you say anything, speak calmly and firmly. Avoid eye contact. Try to stay still until the dog leaves, backs away slowly and is out of sight. Don’t turn and run.
• Never disturb a dog that’s caring for puppies, sleeping or eating. Dogs can be protective of their territory, and may interpret your action as a threat.
• 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.
For information about dog biting and animal behavior and training visit our Related Links page. For annual preventive care, or vaccinations contact Whitworth Animal Clinic, serving pets from Madison, Huntsville, and the surrounding Madison County areas, at (256) 830-1503 to schedule an appointment today.