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Paediatric emergency department dog bite attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic: an audit at a tertiary children’s hospital
  1. John S P Tulloch1,
  2. Simon Minford2,
  3. Vicky Pimblett2,
  4. Matt Rotheram3,
  5. Robert M Christley1,4,
  6. Carri Westgarth1
  1. 1Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, Merseyside, UK
  2. 2Department of Plastic Surgery, Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool, Merseyside, UK
  3. 3Emergency Department, Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool, Merseyside, UK
  4. 4Dogs Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr John S P Tulloch; jtulloch{at}


Background Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic include strict public health measures, such as national lockdowns. During these measures, paediatric emergency department attendances have declined and the prevalence of presenting complaints has changed. This study sought to identify whether dog bite attendance and victim demographics changed during COVID-19 public health measures.

Methods An audit was conducted of emergency department attendance data from a UK tertiary paediatric hospital between January 2016 and September 2020. Dog bite attendance and victim demographics were explored using χ2 tests and multivariable Poisson regression. The mean monthly percentage of attendance due to dog bites in 2020 was compared against predicted percentages based on previous years’ data.

Results Dog bite attendance rose in conjunction with the introduction of COVID-19 public health measures and reached a peak in July 2020 (44 dog bites, 1.3% of all attendances were due to dog bites). This was a threefold increase in dog bite attendance. By September 2020, attendance had returned to normal. The demographic profile of child dog bite victims remained the same. Boys had the highest attendance rates in 7–12 year-olds, girls in 4–6 year-olds. Girls showed higher attendance rates in the summer, while boys’ attendance rates were constant throughout the year. COVID-19 public health measures were associated with a 78% increase in attendance for boys and a 66% increase in girls.

Conclusions COVID-19 national public health measures were associated with an increase in paediatric emergency department dog bite attendance, and may be due to increased child exposure to dogs via ‘stay at home’ orders and school closures. National lockdowns are likely to continue globally throughout the COVID-19 pandemic; this is likely to result in more dog bites. Urgent public health communication and injury prevention strategies are needed to help prevent these avoidable injuries.

  • COVID-19
  • epidemiology

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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  • Contributors JSPT, SM, MR and CW conceptualised and designed the study. SM and VP collected, cleaned and anonymised the data. JSPT and RMC designed and performed the data analysis. JSPT and CW drafted the initial manuscript. All authors reviewed and revised the manuscript, and approved the final submitted manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Disclaimer Dogs Trust had no influence on the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to publish the results.

  • Competing interests RMC is employed by Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.