Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Dogs that bite.

British Medical Journal 1991; 303 doi: (Published 14 December 1991) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1991;303:1512
  1. P C Shewell,
  2. J D Nancarrow
  1. West Midlands Regional Plastic and Jaw Surgery Unit, Wordsley Hospital, Stourbridge.


    OBJECTIVE--To study the circumstances of dog bites and identify risk factors. DESIGN--Postal questionnaire survey and case note review of victims of dog bites referred between 1982 and 1989. SETTING--One referral based regional plastic surgery unit. PATIENTS--146 consecutive patients referred for primary treatment of dog bites, for whom current addresses were available for 133, 107 (81%) of whom returned the questionnaire. RESULTS--The male to female ratio was 74:72; 79 (54%) patients were aged below 15 years. The commonest dogs producing bites were Staffordshire bull terriers (15 cases), Jack Russell terriers (13), medium sized mongrels (10), and Alsatians (nine). 82 of 96 (85%) dogs were male. 29 of 47 (62%) adults were bitten at home and 45 of 60 (75%) children at a friend's, neighbour's, or relative's house. 91 of 107 (85%) bites occurred in the dog's home. Bites occurred during playing with 13 (12%), petting 14 (13%), or waking 16 (15%) dogs. 45 (42%) bites were judged as unprovoked. 32 bites were identified as severe and 11 attacks as sustained. CONCLUSIONS--Most victims are bitten by male dogs which they either own or have had frequent contact with, and the bite occurs in the dog's home.