Incidence of Dog Bite Injuries Treated in Emergency Departments (1992-1994)

January 1998 | By Harold B. Weiss, MS, MPH, Deborah I. Friedman and Jeffrey H. Coben, MD

This study estimates the incidence of dog bite injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments from 1992-1994, using a 3-year population-based stratified random sample of ED visits.

Study highlights

  • The 3-year annualized, adjusted, and weighted estimate of new dog bite-related injury visits to US EDs was 333,687, a rate of 12.9 per 10,000 persons. This represents approximately 914 new dog bite injuries requiring ED visits per day. Children seen in EDs were more likely than older persons to be bitten on the face, neck, and head (73% vs 30%).
  • Data were obtained from the 1992-1994 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, a population-based stratified sample of US ED visits. This survey, conducted annually since 1992, is directed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics. The combined 3-year data set represented estimates applying to roughly 274 million ED visits (about 91 million visits per year).
  • Ages of victims of dog bite-related injuries ranged from < 1 year to 91 years (median age, 15 years). Incidence rates were significantly higher among children aged 0 to 9 years, especially among boys. The 5- to 9-year-old male age group had the highest rate, 60.7 ED visits per 10,000 persons. The estimated 57,580 dog bite-related visits for boys aged 5 to 9 years represent 3.6% of all injury-related ED visits in this group.
  • Over half the dog bite injuries (58%) were reported to have occurred at a home. Dog bite-ED visits were more likely to occur on the weekends. Dog bite injuries were triaged in the ED as urgent-emergent in 46.1% of the visits and nonurgent for the remainder. Ninety-six percent of patients making dog bite-related ED visits were treated and released from the ED; the rest were admitted to the hospital or transferred to another facility.
  • Using the (rounded) NCHS survey data reported here of 334,000 dog bite-related ED visits with a 4% hospitalization rate, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention household survey estimates of 757,000 medically treated and 3.73 million nonmedically treated dog bites, and averaged mortality data reporting about 20 deaths per year, it appears that, for each US dog bite fatality, there are about 670 hospitalizations, 16,000 ED visits, 21,000 other medical visits (office and clinic), and 187,000 non-medically treated bites.
  • Applying a limited payment model to the data, the study estimated the average dog bite results in a payment to the hospital of $274 and a national annual total payment for ED services for new dog bite-related injuries of $102.4 million. Children and adolescents younger than 20 years accounted for over half these payments ($58.7 million), and Medicaid, Medicare, and other government sources were mentioned as payers in 26% of the visits.
Incidence of Dog Bite Injuries Treated in Emergency Departments (1992-1994), by Weiss HB, Friedman DI and Coben JH, JAMA 1998 Jan 7;279(1):51-3.