Dog Bite Prevention Week is April 7-13

by Dr. Erin Forbes, VVMA Communications Committee Chair Mountain View Animal Hospital

Dog bite prevention week is April 7 to 13 this year. Dog bites pose a serious health risk to communities as more than 4.5 million people are bitten in the US each year. It is estimated about half of those bitten are children, and of those bitten 1 in 5 require medication attention. Also, children are more likely to be severely injured by a dog bite. Bites typically happen during everyday interactions with dogs. It is important to know that any dog can bite, and bite risk is not based on the dogs age, sex, or size. Any breed may bite. Fortunately, most dog bites are preventable and there are things you can do in your house/community to help prevent them.

Dogs bite for many reasons but typically it is a reaction to something, such as a stressful or scary situation. They also bite to protect something valuable to them or if they feel threatened. A dog that is older, sick, or injured may bite to stop an interaction which is causing more pain someone is playing rough with it can cause pain and this can lead to a bite.

Simple steps can be taken to prevent dog bites. These include education yourself and your children about how to have good and non-threatening interactions with dogs, always providing supervision for your dog, properly socializing your puppy at a young age, and recognizing signs that your dog is anxious or fearful and needs to be removed from a situation.

Educating children about how to be safe around dogs is crucial to preventing bites. Children should be taught to avoid strange dogs and only approach if an adult is present who has given permission for the child to interact with said dog. It is also important for children to respect dogs’ space. Children should never tease dogs by taking their toys, food, or treats, or by pretending to hit or kick a dog. Dogs should be left alone when sleeping, eating, or in their bed/crate. Dog beds/crates should be recognized as a safe space for the dog and a place where no one bothers them.

If you have any concerns about your dog’s behavior, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinary to address any health issues and discuss steps to take to keep your dog and family safe. These may include behavioral modification, medications, referral to a veterinary behaviorist, or a combination of all three. For more information on dog bite prevention, visit the VVMA website.

The Vermont Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) is a professional organization of 380 veterinarians dedicated to compassionate animal care and quality medicine.