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Rise in Dog Bites Has Experts Concerned
Date:2/18/2011

By Maryann Mott
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Feb. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Many people consider their dogs as best friends, but hospital records suggest some pooches feel otherwise.

Each year, approximately 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs, with some bites needing emergency treatment. Over a 16-year period, in fact, the number of hospital admissions caused by dog bites nearly doubled, increasing from 5,100 in 1993 to 9,500 in 2008, according to a recent report by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

In 2008, dog bites sent an average of 866 people every day -- nearly 40 percent of them children and teens -- to emergency rooms throughout the country for treatment. Twenty-six patients a day required hospitalization, the report noted.

Only a small percentage of the spike is attributed to population growth of both dogs and people during the same period, said study co-author Anne Elixhauser, a senior research scientist with the federal agency. However, the data didn't give any clues as to why biting injuries are on the rise, she said.

Frequently the attacker is a family or neighborhood pet, researchers say.

"A lot of people think dog bites are from some [stray] running around, and no one knows where it lives," said Nancy Hill, who sits on the board of directors for the National Animal Control Association. "That happens to some extent, but to a greater extent it's the owned dog."

In the case of Kelly Voigt of Palatine, Ill., a neighborhood dog was the culprit. In the spring of 1999, Voigt, then 7, innocently walked up a neighbor's driveway to pet their resting dog, a Siberian Husky. She was immediately bitten in the face and throat, suffering injuries so severe she needed more than 100 stitches to close the wounds. She also required psychiatric counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

"It affected me in such a big way that I just
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