Family dog is not harmless.

posted: by: USATODAY.COM Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Nov 10, 2010

Family dog is not harmless, new study says

As much as we write about the wonderful attributes of dogs and cats, we are sometimes reminded they're not always angels.

This isn't really news to me, but Fido needs to be supervised around young children, according to a new study.

The study, done by Vikram Durairaj of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, found that dogs usually target a child's face and eyes and most often it's a breed considered "good" with children, like a Labrador Retriever.

"People tend to think the family dog is harmless, but it's not," said Durairaj, associate professor of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. "We have seen facial fractures around the eye, eye lids torn off, injury to the tear drainage system and the eyeball itself."

The study says the likelihood of a child getting bitten in their lifetime is around 50 % with 80 % of those bites involving the head and neck. If a dog bites once, it's likely to bite again with the second attack often more brutal than the first.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year and 885,000 require medical attention. The total cost is estimated at up to $250 million.

The study looked at 537 children treated for facial dog bites at The Children's Hospital on the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus between 2003 and 2008. Durairaj found that 68 % of bites occurred in children 5-years-old or younger with the highest incidence in 3-year-olds.

The dogs were not breeds usually associated with attacks. Mixed breeds were responsible for 23 % of bites followed by Labrador retrievers (13.7 %), Rottweilers (4.9 % ), German shepherds (4.4 %) and Golden Retrievers (3 %). The study was done in the Denver area where Pit bulls are banned.

He says the first time a dog bites it should be removed from the home: "The onus is on parents to recognize aggressive breeds as well as behaviors and never allow their young children to be left unsupervised around any dog."