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Retrospective review of dog bite injuries in children presenting to a South Australian tertiary children's hospital emergency department


  • Conflict of interest: None declared.



To describe the characteristics, circumstances and consequences of dog bite injuries in children in order to inform the discourse concerning preventative approaches.


A retrospective review of children presenting to the emergency department (ED) of the Women's and Children's Hospital (WCH) in South Australia between the years 2009 and 2011 was performed.


A total of 277 children presented to the WCH with dog bite injuries between 2009 and 2011. Of those, 141(51.0%) were referred for admission. Injury rates were highest in those aged 0–4, declining thereafter with age. In the 0–4 year age group, 89.5% of children presented after being bitten by a familiar dog with 92.5% occurring at home. The head/neck region constituted the most common location for injuries. We found that 67.5% of dog bite injuries were provoked and occurred between the child and a familiar dog (78.0%). Dogs from the bull terrier group (20.0%) and Jack Russell Terriers (11.0%) were the two most documented breeds. Almost half of the children presenting during the specified timeframe required at least one operation under a general anaesthetic. Two children were referred to a psychologist for management of post-traumatic stress.


Dog bite injuries are common in children and often require admission for inpatient care. This presents as a significant public health burden. For this reason, prevention initiatives need to be implemented on an ongoing basis.