Government Study Details Shocking Increase in Hospitalizations for Dog Bites

A newly released government study examining hospitalizations resulting from dog bites lays out some attention-grabbing data: between 1993 and 2008 the number of people hospitalized nationwide as a result of dog bites nearly doubled. Reporting the data the New York Times noted that this “increase vastly exceeded population growth, and pet ownership increased only slightly during the same period.” The study was conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services.

As an AHRQ news release notes, those under the age of 5 or over 65 are in the greatest danger for dog bites. The most common form of hospital treatment required is for “skin and underlying tissue infection”, though in a small number of cases much more serious conditions – such as multiple fractures or blood poisoning – can develop following a serious dog attack.

The study notes that around 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year and that only a fraction of these incidents require hospitalization. Still, as the study’s author, Dr. Anne Elixhauser, told the Times, referencing the huge increase in injuries serious enough to require hospitalization: “It’s really kind of frightening, and, unfortunately, we’re at a loss to explain it.”
Here in Oregon we can take some small solace from the fact that bite figures are somewhat lower for the Western US as a whole than for other regions of the country. Nevertheless, the report serves as a reminder of both the seriousness of Oregon dog bites in general and of the importance of addressing them promptly when they occur.

A particularly troubling finding is the study’s conclusion that “treating patients admitted for dog bites cost hospitals an average of $18,200 per patient.” Figures like that remind us of how important it is to establish accountability from a dog’s owner. To ensure that accountability, victims of Oregon dog attacks are well-advised to consult a Portland dog bite lawyer as soon as possible after the incident.

New York Times: Risks: Hospital admissions for dog bites are on the rise

AHRQ News Release on Dog Bite Study (contains a link to the full report)