Original Article

Characteristics of Dog Bites in Arkansas

Authors: Aaron M. Smith, MD, Jacob Carlson, MD, Ashley B. Bartels, MD, Cody B. McLeod, MD, Michael S. Golinko, MD


Objective: Dog bite injuries are encountered frequently in emergency departments and can cause significant morbidity. The objective of this study was to explore the associations between the multiple variables at play during these occurrences (eg, the patient’s age, the bite location, the bite severity, the dog’s relationship with the patient, the breed of dog).

Methods: This two-institution study collected and analyzed dog bite data from Arkansas’ only Level I trauma centers. The charts of 740 patients were included in our retrospective chart review. The chart review extracted data, including each individual patient’s age, sex, dog bite location, and dog bite severity, as well as the patient’s relationship to the dog and the dog’s breed. To determine the relation between and among variables, contingency tables were created and analyzed to determine odds ratios (ORs) and confidence intervals (CIs). In addition, standard t tests were used in statistical comparisons of means and proportions.

Results: Of the 740 patient charts reviewed, 574 were for patients who presented to Arkansas Children’s Hospital and 166 were for patients who presented to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Of the patients across both institutions, 267 (37.1%) required some form of repair, with 225 (30.4%) receiving closure within the emergency department and 42 (6.7%) requiring an operative intervention. Among children, those younger than age 5 years were >8 times as likely to require an operative repair (OR 8.1, 95% CI 2.77–23.58, P < 0.0001), >4 times as likely to be bitten on the head and neck (OR 4.30, 95% CI 3.00–6.16, P < 0.0001), and ≤3 times as likely to be bitten by a family dog (OR 2.97, 95% CI 2.10–4.20, P < 0.0001). Conversely, children older than age 12 years were >3 times as likely to be bitten on an extremity (OR 3.43, 95% CI 2.08–5.65, P < 0.0001).

Conclusions: The results of this retrospective review are aligned mostly with the general trends found in previous national and global studies, supporting the notion that family dogs represent a more significant threat than often is realized and that, among the breeds identified, pit bulls are proportionally linked with more severe bite injuries. Our data further validate previous studies that note an increased risk of bites and bite severity in children younger than 5 years. In addition, our data show that bites to the head and neck occurred more frequently among children younger than 5 years than among older children, and that boys younger than 5 years were bitten more frequently than girls.

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