A new study has called for the introduction of public awareness campaigns to address the “significant and under publicised hazard” of dog bites and the potential for long-term and disfiguring consequences of such injuries particularly amongst young children.
The study by researchers at the Department of Plastic Surgery at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) reviewed information on 43 trauma clinic referrals to the department from July 2009 to March 2010.
The patient group comprised an even mix of males and females of which 37.2 per cent or 16 patients were aged between 0 and 10 years, 9.3 per cent or four patients were between 11 and 20, while the remaining 53.5 per cent or 23 patients were more than 20 years old.
The study found that the vast majority of injuries (93.8 per cent) sustained by young children in the 0-10 age group were above the neck, while in the 11-20 year old group, half were above the neck and half resulted in upper limb injuries.
In those over the age of 20, more than three-quarters of injuries were in the upper limbs and 21.7 per cent affected the face. Interestingly, the data revealed that in the vast majority of cases (88.4 per cent) the dogs were known to the patients.
In relation to the breed of dogs involved, terriers were responsible for the majority of the injuries (16 cases).
Sheepdogs inflicted 11 or 25.6 per cent of bites, and Alsatians and rough collies accounted for three and two cases respectively. Springer spaniels were involved in two cases and ‘other’ breeds accounted for nine cases.
Of the 43 referrals to the plastic surgery department, 42 required surgery.
The study further revealed that 72.1 per cent of patients required hospitalisation for at least one day and the average length of stay was two days, with a maximum stay of eight days.
“Dog bites are a significant, and under-publicised hazard, and public awareness campaigns must strive to address this issue to avoid the potential long-term and disfiguring sequele of such injuries,” the researchers concluded.
The research was presented at the Sir Peter Freyer Surgical Symposium at NUI Galway recently.