A basic finding him in the epidemiology of dog bites is that children are the victims in a disproportional amount of dog bite attacks. The reasons for this are probably the result of many interacting variables, some of which include the inability of the child to defend itself against an aggressive dog, the inability of a child to accurately read nonverbal communication signals from a dog, the style of interaction a child directs to a dog, natural movements and size of the child which at times might resemble a prey like object to a dog, the contextual features in which a child encounters a dog, and the interaction between a dog’s behavioral tendencies and the cognitive/developmental stage of the child. In any given instance of dog bite attack on a child, it is likely that some of the above-mentioned variables simultaneously occur at a given point in time to produce the event.
Below are listed some established and valid statistics regarding dog bites inflicted to children. Note, in recent years more epidemiological studies have come from European countries, and are appropriately noted. Also, different studies categorized dog bite statistical information differently, thus to some extent some of the statistical information listed below overlaps.
- When compared with adults, annually, children are 3–5 times more likely to sustain dog bite injury (Source: Journal American Veterinary Medical Association, 2001).
- Annually, 50% of the people who are bitten by dogs in the United States are less than 14 years of age. (Source: Injury Prevention, 1996).
- Children between 7 to 9 years of age are 2 times more likely to be bitten by a dog when compared with other age groups. (Source: Public Health Reports, 1985).
- The vast majority of children (94 %) who sustained dog bites in the home environment are familiar with the dog that inflicted the bite, which contrasts markedly with the unfamiliarity of the child (approximately 70%) when the dog bite is inflicted in a public domain (Source: Veterinary Journal ,2006).
- 50% of children who sustain severe dog bite suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder, which contrasts with a much lower incident of posttraumatic disorder in children who sustained less severe dog bite injury. (Source: The Veterinary Journal, 2006).
- Dog bites injury accounts for approximately 25% of visits by children to hospital emergency rooms in the country of Belgium. (Source : Veterinary Journal, 2006).
- In Belgium, the average age of the child who sustains dog bite injury in the home environment is approximately 4 years of age, which contrasts average age of 9 years for children bitten in a public domain. (Source: Veterinary Journal, 2006).
- In Belgium, dog bite incidents occurring in the home environment are more often preceded by direct interaction (86%) with the child as opposed to dog bite instances inflicted to children happening in public domains (31%). (Source: Veterinary Journal, 2006).
- For children within the age group of 5-9 years, those who live with dogs are at greater risk for dog bite injury when compared with those children who do not live with dogs. (Source: J.Dev Behavior Pediatrics 1994).