Last year, 4.7 million people were bitten by dogs.
The U.S. Postal Service -- another sponsor of Dog Bite Prevention Week -- cites data from the Humane Society of the United States reporting that that small children, the elderly and Postal Service letter carriers -- in that order -- are the most frequent victims of dog bites. Recent statistics show the annual number of dog attacks exceeds the reported instances of measles, whooping cough, and mumps, combined. In addition, dog bite victims account for up to five percent of emergency room visits.
"When you consider the fact that there are 61 million dogs in the United States, it becomes clear that dog bite prevention is very important," said AVMA President Roger Mahr. "The only known cures for dog bites are training, knowledge and caution. Any dog may bite if it feels threatened, if it's put into an unfamiliar situation, if it's out of control or if it's scared."
"As pediatricians, we often see the harm inflicted when dogs bite children," said Dr. Eileen Ouellette, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "In addition to teaching children about safety -- whether rollerblading or riding in a car -- the AAP hopes families address safety around some of their furry friends."
The AVMA offers the following tips to reducing the risk of dog bites:
To avoid being bitten, be cautious around strange dogs and treat your own pet with respect.
Because children are the most frequent victims of dog bites, parents and caregivers should never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
The AVMA says young children, including toddlers, should be taught to be careful around pets and to never approach strange dogs. Children should ask permission from a dog's owner before petting the dog.
Children must be taught not to approach strange dogs. Teach children to ask permission from a dog's owner before petting the dog.
Other tips that may present or stop a dog attack
If you are bitten by a your own dog, confine it immediately and call your veterinarian to check your dog's vaccination records.If someone else's dog bit you, first seek medical treatment for the wound. Next, contact authorities and tell them everything you can about the dog: the owner's name, if you know it; the color and size of the dog; where you encountered the dog; and, if and where you've seen it before. These details may help animal-control officers locate the dog. In addition, consider asking your physician if post-exposure rabies treatment may be necessary.
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