When I heard about what happened to the 4 year old boy that was attacked by a Pit Bull a couple of weeks ago, I asked our public health statistics team to look at our surveillance data and see whether severe dog maulings are really up- or whether it just seems that way.  It turns out that they really are up over the last few years.  In fact, our report (released yesterday) found that severe dog bites requiring inpatient hospitalization have more than doubled over the last 5 years in AZ. 

The most striking finding was that there’s been a 139% increase in inpatient hospitalizations (requiring at least 1 overnight stay) in the last 5 years in Arizona.  Overall, there were 34,151 emergency department visits and 2,358 inpatient hospitalizations from 2008-2012 for dog-bite related injuries.   The total healthcare charges during this time-period were $55,000,000.   The median cost for a dog bite inpatient stay was $17,000…  emergency department visits averaged $1,150.  Interestingly, more than 70% of the dog bite injuries happened in homes. 

Probably the most important safety tip for folks is to pick a dog breed and dog that match your lifestyle- especially if you have or think you might have kids.  

Other helpful tips are to avoid running from or approaching an unfamiliar dog (remain motionless).  Never try to break up a dog fight by yourself.   If you’re knocked over by an unfamiliar dog you should roll into a ball and be still.    Don’t disturb a dog that’s sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.  Kids should avoid playing with unfamiliar dogs unless supervised by an adult- and ask questions about family pets before sending your kid on a play date or sleepover at a friend’s house.

Dogs can be great family companions- but just like your mom probably taught you- they also come with responsibilities.