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Study Shows Dog Bites on the Increase and Often Affect Children

Americans own about 77.5 million dogs and the old saying that dogs are "man's best friend" is true in many ways. However, a recent study by the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) shows that dog bite injuries are becoming increasingly common across the country.

The HCUP study tracked emergency room visits and hospital stays due to a dog bite from 1993 through 2008 and found an 86 percent increase of dog bite hospitalizations over 15 years. In 1993, 5,100 people were hospitalized due to a dog bite compared to 9,500 people in 2008. Emergency room visits were much more frequent. In 2008, dog bites caused 316,200 trips to emergency rooms and urgent care facilities.

Dog bites tend to affect younger people. The average age for a dog bite patient was 29.5 years, compared to an average age of 35.3 years for all injury patients. People younger than 18 years old accounted for 38 percent of dog-bite patients. Additionally, people in rural areas appear to be more likely to suffer a dog bite. The study found four times as many emergency room visits and three times as many hospital stays due to dog bites in rural areas than in urban areas.

Under California law, a person who owns an animal is responsible for any damage that the animal causes and this includes the medical expenses of the dog bite victim. Most dog bites require debridement of the wound and stitches. However, dog bites can do serious damage to a person. Often, dogs will target a person's hands or face. Recovery from a serious dog bite can require multiple reconstructive surgeries.

Source: Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, "Emergency Department Visits and Inpatient Stays Involving Dog Bites, 2008," Laurel Holmquist and Anne Elixhauser, 11/2010

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