The aim of this study was to determine the pattern of dog bites seen at the emergency department of a university hospital. The information will be used to plan prevention and enhance management strategies.
All patients (younger than 22 years) assessed at the emergency department between January 2003 and December 2004 with a discharge diagnosis of animal bites were identified through the computerized discharge network.
One hundred forty-four incidents of animal bites (82 males and 62 females) occurred over the 2-year period. Eighty-nine percent was due to dog bites. Among the dog bite victims, the mean age was 11.82 years (SD, 6.39 years; range, 0.06-21.83 years). Family dogs were only involved in 15% of cases. The species of dogs were not recognized in three fifths, and attacks provoked in two fifths of victims. Most bites (90%) of bites involved only single anatomical sites. The extremities were commonly involved (right upper limb [23%], left upper limb [16%], right lower limb [35%], left lower limb [20%]). Torso (4%) and genitalia (0.8%) were uncommonly involved. Pain, erythema, bleeding, and bruising were common symptoms, but 60 patients were asymptomatic at presentation. Compared with older patients, children younger than 10 years had a much higher risk of facial injuries (25% vs. 2%, P = 0.0002; odds ratio, 21.8, 95% confidence interval, 2.9-455.9) and were more likely to be triaged as being urgent (P = 0.01). Most attacks were trivial and did not require hospitalization. Antirabies treatment was given in approximately half, analgesics in two fifths, and antibiotics in one fourth.
In mammalian attacks, canines are most commonly involved. Most injuries are trivial, and the limbs are usually involved. However, younger children are at higher risk of facial injuries. Extent of pain and adverse psychological impacts are typically not documented in the emergency assessment.