Pediatric Dog Bite Injuries in Central Texas

July 2019 | By Jasson T. Abraham and Marcin Czerwinski

A retrospective review of 102 pediatric patients ages ≤ 18-years old from the pediatric trauma registry showed that bulls accounted for the highest prevalence and severity of injuries.

Study highlights

  • This study involved a retrospective review of the pediatric trauma registry for patients aged ≤ 18 years old treated for dog bite injuries at [blinded] emergency department in Texas from October 2011 to October 2016. 102 patients met the inclusion criteria. The mean age was 5.84 years. Data collected included patient demographics, parental presence, time of injury, dog breed and ownership status, injury location and characteristics, need for operative intervention, and hospitalization.
  • Results of the study show that parental presence was reported in 43.6% of cases and most attacks occurred in the evening (46.8%). Injuries most often involved the head and neck region (92.1%), and 72.5% of injuries were of "major severity." Pet dogs were responsible for 42% of injuries, and pit bull was the most commonly identified dog breed (36.2%) in the series. Most injuries occurred while the child was at home (57.8%). Intervention in the operating room was required in 34.3% of patients.
  • The study reports that the month of December had the highest proportion of injuries (14.7%). The season of spring (March to May) accounted for 31.4% of injuries, followed by winter (December to February) accounting for 29.4% of injuries. In contrast to prior pediatric studies showing a male predominance for dog bite injury, females comprised a majority in this study, 57%. A correlation between sex and age at the time of injury does not appear to exist, states the study.
  • The Central Texas study reports that a total of 80 dogs were identified by breed in 75 encounters. The two most commonly identified were pit bulls (36.2%) followed by Labrador retrievers (10%). Only two breeds were identified in multi-dog attacks, pit bulls (2 incidents) and Great Danes (1 incident). The pit bull was also the most commonly identified breed involved in major injuries in this study, including injuring two patients that required monitoring in the intensive care unit.
  • The ownership status was identified in 99 encounters -- 97% of pediatric patients studied (99 of 102). Pet dog(s) from the child's immediate family was responsible in 41.4% of cases. Nonpet dog(s) belonging to a relative, 19.2%, or a friend, 17.2%, made up the majority of the remaining cases. Stray or neighborhood dog (s) were responsible in 22.2% of cases. "The pet status of the dog did not have a protective effect on the severity of injury," states the study.
  • The Central Texas study concludes that, "pet familiarity should not be considered a fail-safe against dog bite injuries. Medium- to large-sized dog breeds, particularly pit bulls, can cause significant injury to the head and neck region, necessitating medical care at a specialized center, and should not be under the responsibility of amateur or irresponsible owners."
Pediatric Dog Bite Injuries in Central Texas, by J.T. Abraham and M. Czerwinski, Journal of Pediatric Surgery, July 2019 [2018 Oct 31, Epub].