K-State veterinarian shares tips on dog bite prevention

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 10:04 AM CDT
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - A veterinarian from Kansas State University wants to help pet owners avoid ‘ruff’ situations.

Kansas State University says as the weather warms up, it is more common to see dogs and their owners outside. But, with the increased number of pet introductions, it said there is also an increase in the cases of dog bites.

According to K-State, the second week of April is National Dog Bite Prevention Week and serves as a good reminder for everyone to practice safety around dogs.

K-State said according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, about 77 million dogs live in the nation and 38% of homes in the U.S. have at least one dog.

“The AVMA also estimates that more than 17,800 dog bites occur every year in the United States, with many of the victims children under 2 years of age,” said Susan Nelson, clinical professor with the K-State Pet Health and Nutrition Center. “According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites resulted in homeowner insurance payouts of $796.8 million in 2019. This was a 2.9% increase over the previous year. The national average for insurance claims related to a dog bite is $44,760.”

Nelson said while dogs can bite for many reasons, it is usually because they are reacting to some type of stimulus.

“Dogs will bite if they are scared, startled or feel threatened,” Nelson said. “They will also bite to defend their territory or themselves. Mother dogs will bite to defend their pups if they feel they are threatened, and may dogs will bite to keep others away from food, treats or a prized toy or other object.”

Nelson said she has tips for both pets and owners to stay safe and avoid biting experiences.

“If you have a new puppy, it is very important to socialize it properly as well-socialized dogs are less likely to bite due to fear of strange people or being stressed by being in an unfamiliar environment,” Nelson said. “This needs to happen very early during the first few months of life as this is a puppy’s critical formative time. Ask your veterinarian for tips and good resources on how to do this.”

According to Nelson, dogs should be kept on a leash when in public so they can be controlled. She said she recommends using positive reinforcement during training, avoiding rough play, giving dogs a safe space to enjoy meals and giving them ample time to rest away from humans and other pets.

“To avoid bites, humans are responsible for keeping themselves and their pets safe in difficult situations,” Nelson said. “Assume that all dogs are capable of biting — because they are. Dogs need a safe place where they can go to be alone and not be bothered by people or other pets. This can be in the form of a crate, bed or small room.”

Nelson said children should never be left unattended with pets and should be taught to never approach an unfamiliar or sick dog, take a treat, toy or food from a dog, or to never hug, kiss or crowd a dog in a manner that could bring the animal stress. She said she emphasizes the importance of making sure all family members are educated on animal safety, which includes respecting the animals’ needs for privacy and to not bother it while it is eating or sleeping.

According to Nelson, you should always ask an owner if you can pet their dog and respect their wishes if they say no.

“Don’t reach through or over a fence to pet a dog, even if it belongs to your neighbor,” Nelson said. “Don’t play with puppies when their mother is around unless the owner is around to supervise. And don’t try to pet a dog that is growling or barking at you.”

Finally, Nelson said it is important to keep dogs current on rabies vaccines. She said she encourages children to always tell an adult if they were bitten and try to remember what the dog looked like.

“Dog bite prevention needs to be practiced year-round by everyone for the safety of people, especially our children, and for the benefit of our dogs,” she said.

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