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Dog attacks: it's time for doctors to bite back

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 22 February 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:425
  1. Rachel Besser, paediatric specialist registrar (and lifetime dog owner)
  1. London Deanery
  1. rachelbesser{at}

    This year, like previous years, has seen a spate of coverage in the British media of maulings by dogs, such as the one that killed a girl in Merseyside on 1 January (, “Dog kills five-year-old girl in home”). The most recent available data from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents ( show that 70 000 people attended UK emergency departments in 2002 for injuries caused by dog bites. Many of these are attacks on children by the family pet and take place in the home (European Journal of Pediatrics 2003;162:254-8). Dog bites have become a public health concern and a child protection issue. As with many public health issues, however, individuals are reluctant to take responsibility and modify their behaviour. The medical profession is left to mop up the mess. Children are particularly vulnerable; one American study found that children aged under 5 years were the age group most likely to have severe head and neck injuries (American Surgeon 1999;65:863-4).

    Undoubtedly, few people bitten by dogs die or are left with a profound disability. However, the number of people admitted to UK hospitals after being bitten by a dog is rising, despite a fall in dog ownership. Data collected by the Information Centre for Health and Social Care …

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