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Dog Bites

Nearly 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, half of these are children.1 One in five dog bites results in injuries serious enough to require medical attention.1

Why be concerned about dog bites?

  • About 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year.1
  • Almost one in five of those who are bitten, about 885,000, require medical attention for dog bite-related injuries; half of these are children.1
  • In 2012, more than 27,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of being bitten by dogs.2

Who is at risk?

  • Children: Among children, the rate of dog bite–related injuries is highest for those ages 5 to 9 years, and children are more likely than adults to receive medical attention for dog bites.3
  • Adult Males: Male adults are more likely than female adults to be bitten.1
  • People with dogs in their homes: Among children and adults, having a dog in the household is associated with a higher incidence of dog bites. As the number of dogs in the home increases, so does the incidence of dog bites. Adults with two or more dogs in the household are five times more likely to be bitten than those living without dogs at home.1

How can dog bites be prevented?

Photo: family walking a dogAny dog of any breed has the potential to bite. Dog bites are a largely preventable public health problem, see the below suggestions for preventing dog bites.

Before you bring a dog into your household:

  • Work with a local animal shelter, rescue organization or reputable breeder.  They can often help you find breeds and dogs within those breeds that will be a good fit for your household.
  • Choose a veterinarian who can help you identify a reputable trainer for your new family member.
  • Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful or apprehensive about a dog. If a child seems frightened by dogs, wait before bringing a dog into your household. Dogs with histories of aggression are not suitable for households with children.
  • Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it. Use caution when bringing a dog into a household with an infant or toddler.

Once you decide to bring a dog into your home:

  • Spay/neuter your dog (this often reduces aggressive tendencies).
  • Never leave infants or young children alone with a dog.
  • Don’t play aggressive games with your dog (e.g., wrestling).
  • Properly socialize and train any dog entering your household.
  • Immediately seek professional advice (e.g., from veterinarians, animal behaviorists, or responsible trainers) if the dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.

Teach children basic safety tips and review them regularly:

  • Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Do not run from a dog or scream.
  • Remain motionless (e.g., "be still like a tree") when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and be still.
  • Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
  • Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior to an adult.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
  • Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
  • If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.

In addition, the American Veterinary Medical Association task force has outlined recommended strategies that communities can undertake for the prevention of dog bites.

Resources for More Information

CDC MMWR: Nonfatal Dog Bite-Related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments --- United States, 2001

So Your Child Wants a Dog? Podcast You've heard so much in the news about dog bites. Is having a dog safe? Learn steps you can take to prevent dog bites in this Ask CDC podcast. (4:05)

WISQARS – WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) is an interactive system that provides customized reports of injury-related data and can be used to find data on dog bites treated in an Emergency Department.

American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) includes recommendations for choosing the right dog, addressing behavioral concerns, as well as recommendations for a community dog bite prevention program. 


  1. Gilchrist J, Sacks JJ, White D, Kresnow MJ. Dog bites: still a problem Injury Prevention 2008.
  2. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. 2012 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report [online]. 2012. [cited 2013 Oct 24]. Available from URL:
  3. CDC. Nonfatal Dog Bite--Related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments--United States, 2001. MMWR 2003; 52(26): 605-610.
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