Emergency Department Visits and Inpatient Stays Involving Dog Bites, 2008

By Laurel Holmquist, MA and Anne Elixhauser, PhD

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality published a study in 2010 showing that the number of Americans hospitalized for dog bite injuries almost doubled over a 15-year period.

Study highlights

  • In 2008, there were 316,200 ED visits and 9,500 hospital stays related to dog bites. This represents a rate of 103.9 ED visits and 3.1 hospital stays per 100,000 population. On average, every day there were 866 ED visits and 26 hospitalizations related to dog bites.
  • The overall trend through this 16-year time period (between 1993 and 2008) shows an 86.3 percent increase in dog bite-related hospital stays, with an apparent peak in 1995. The rate of hospitalization increased by 55 percent over the 16 year period, from 2.0 to 3.1 per 100,000.
  • The average cost of a dog bite-related hospital stay was $18,200, approximately 50 percent higher than the average injury-related hospital stay ($12,100). The average cost per day for a dog bite-related hospitalization was 2.5 times that of the average injury-related hospital stay ($5,500 per day versus $2,200).
  • Over 40 percent of ED visits and inpatient stays that involved a dog bite were billed to private insurance (44.7 and 42.9 percent, respectively). Medicaid accounted for 19.5 percent of ED visits and 17.5 percent of hospital stays. Uninsured patients accounted for 19.1 percent of ED visits but only 12.6 percent of hospital stays.
  • For patients who lived in rural areas, the rate of dog bite-related ED visits was 119.3 per 100,000 population, about 4 times higher than in urban areas (large central, large fringe, and medium and small metropolitan designations). The rate of hospitalizations for patients in rural areas was 2.9 stays per 100,000 population, 3 times higher than in urban areas where the rate was less than one stay per 100,000 population.
  • Dog bite-related ED visits were highest in the Midwest (109.9 visits per 100,000 population) and Northeast (108.5 visits) and lowest in the West (93.0 visits), while dog bite-related hospitalizations were highest in the Northeast (3.9 stays per 100,000 population) and lowest in the West (2.5 stays). These differences are similar to all injuries.
  • Common principal diagnoses for dog bite-related hospitalizations included skin and subcutaneous tissue infections (43.2 percent); more than one-fifth (22.1 percent) were for open wounds of extremities and 10.5 percent were for open wounds of head, neck, and trunk. Other principal diagnoses included fractures of upper limbs, infective arthritis and osteomyelitis, septicemia, crushing injury or internal injury, and fracture of lower limbs.
Emergency Department Visits and Inpatient Stays Involving Dog Bites, 2008, by Laurel Holmquist, M.A. and Anne Elixhauser, Ph.D., Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD., November 2010.