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Dog Bite Awareness and Prevention

By Dr. Patrick Mahaney, VMD


Dog bites can have tragic consequences, including severe injury or death. According to the AVMA Dog Bite Prevention webpage:

  • 4.7 million people the U.S. are bitten by dogs on an annual basis
  • 800,000 Americans receive medical attention for dog bites each year
  • Children are most commonly bitten, as 400,000 receive medical attention every year (senior citizens are in second place)
  • Dog bites to children most commonly occur with familiar dogs engaging in everyday activities

When it comes down to it, dog bite awareness and prevention should be a daily practice undertaken by all pet owners. Avoiding the personal, emotional, and financial trauma associated with incidents where our canine companions’ teeth penetrate another animal or person’s skin is a much better wellness practice for all parties involved than managing the post-bite trauma.


Here are my top five dog bite prevention tips.

Image: Kuricheva Ekaterina / Shutterstock

1. Proper Socialization and Training

Get your dog used to being around others of his kind by promoting consistent and positive socialization with other animals. If you are training a puppy or acclimating a new adult rescue pooch to your household and lifestyle, focus on training from a positive perspective as soon as you become the primary care provider.


Teaching the basic commands, “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and others can help strengthen the canine-human bond and increase the likelihood that your pooch will respond favorably to interactions with other people.


If you aren’t confident with your technique or if your message is coming across as less than authoritative, seek guidance from a trainer, veterinarian, or veterinary behavior specialist via the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists website.

Image: Ginny / Flickr

2. Leash Restraint

Always keep your dog on a short leash in public spaces. Avoid using an extendable lead, which doesn’t allow for the same degree of control as a non-extending leash does, which keeps your dog’s movement to the limited area that you allow.

Image: Kristine Paulus / Flickr

3. Know Your Friends and Be Wary of Potential Foes

Do not permit your dog to approach another dog with whom you are not familiar. Besides the concern for a bite, scratch, or other trauma, the owners of canine companions need to be aware that other diseases (ocular, oral, respiratory tract and other viruses, bacteria, etc.) can potentially transmit from nose to nose, mouth to mouth, or mouth to anus (i.e., fecal-oral transmission) contact.

Image: Peggy Woods Ryan / Shutterstock

4. Avoid Potentially Stressful and Harmful Situations

If your dog is socially-challenged, consider skipping the dog park altogether. Any place where dogs congregate is a location where canine stress levels are high and normal behaviors are cast aside for more primordial patterns of aggression, anxiety, and a seemingly reduced capacity to pay attention to an owner's commands.


A brief and seemingly safe interaction between two dogs can go quickly awry. What once appeared as a friendly meeting can escalate into a blood-shedding fight at a moment’s notice.

Image: Maja Dumat / Flickr

5. Consider the Costs of Bite Wound Treatment

You may be thinking “the first four recommendations sound great, but my dog is perfect and would never get into a fight with another animal.” On more occasions than I can recall, I’ve heard my clients say such things while sitting in the examination room and seeking treatment for a bite wound their dog received or inflicted.


The average cost associated with treating a dog bite on an emergency basis can vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars and is typically relative to the amount of damage received (or inflicted). That is, the more serious the dog bite, the more expensive the veterinary bill.


The degree of damage incurred is never fully visible to the naked eye at the surface of the skin. Therefore, it is often necessary to sedate or anesthetize an animal, open up the bite wound, assess and repair the damage underneath the skin's surface, then surgically close the site with a drain (a rubber penrose drain which provides an exit for bodily fluids that collect as a result of the crushing injury associated with a bite-related trauma).

Image: Rhian / Flickr

Always Be On Guard

Always take preventive measures to ensure that your pooch will not be the instigator or the recipient of a dog bite.


Learn more:

Any Dog Can Bite
The Yellow Dog Project





Image: Finding Josephine / Flickr

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