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Pet dog bites in children: management and prevention
  1. Molly Jakeman1,
  2. James A Oxley2,
  3. Sara C Owczarczak-Garstecka2,3,
  4. Carri Westgarth2
  1. 1Department of Plastic Surgery, Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool, Merseyside, UK
  2. 2Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Department of Livestock and One Health, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  3. 3Dogs Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Carri Westgarth; Carri.Westgarth{at}


Dog bite injuries are a significant public health problem and many are sustained by children. These injuries can be complex, both physically and psychologically, and in rare cases fatal. This paper will review current evidence-based approaches to treatment, explore identified patterns in biting incidents and discuss the effectiveness of prevention strategies. Safe management of these patients requires a comprehensive approach. Physical injuries need to be accurately assessed with a high index of suspicion for underlying injuries, particularly in younger children less able to communicate. Treatment depends on severity and location, but all bites must be irrigated to reduce the risk of infection but may not always require prophylactic antibiotic use. Careful exploration of the circumstances in which the bite occurred is essential to make safeguarding decisions and prevent future bites. Reducing the incidence of paediatric dog bites requires education of both children and parents that any dog can bite, regardless of breed, and all child–dog interactions must be highly supervised. However, education alone is unlikely to prevent dog bites. Policies that support environmental changes need to be developed such as provision of pet dogs less likely to bite (or bite as severely), through breeding for temperament and appropriate socialisation. Additionally, investment in psychological support for bite victims and their families is required to reduce the long-term impacts of being bitten.

  • epidemiology
  • health services research

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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  • Contributors CW conceptualised the paper. MJ, JAO, SCO-G conducted the first draft. All authors commented on and revised the paper. CW submitted the paper.

  • Funding The author James A. Oxley’s PhD studentship is currently funded by Dogs Trust.

  • Competing interests The author JAO’s studentship is funded by Dogs Trust. The author SCO-G is currently employed by Dogs Trust as a Research Officer, and her past PhD studentship was part-funded by Dogs Trust. CW, SCO-G and JAO are members of the Merseyside Dog Safety Partnership, which has a website containing useful resources for dog bite prevention.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data sharing not applicable as no datasets generated and/or analysed for this study. This is a review article and no datasets were generated or analysed for the study.

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