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Objectives—To analyze Australian dog bite injury data and make international comparisons; to review risk and protective factors relating to the dog, injured person, and environment; and to recommend action for prevention and research.
Methods—Australian dog bite injury data, complemented by detailed Victorian and regional data from routine health records and vital statistics, were analyzed to determine incidence, severity, nature, circumstances, and trends. International comparison data were extracted from published reports. Risk and protective factor studies were selected for review from electronic and bibliographic searches where data were recent, sample sizes substantial, and bias limited.
Results—The Australian dog bite death rate (0.004/100 000) is lower than both the United States (0.05–0.07/100 000) and Canadian rates (0.007/100 000). Victorian hospitalized trend rates were stable between 1987 and 1998, but there was a decline for children <5 years (p=0.019) corresponding with a reduction in dog ownership. Children 0–4 years have the highest rate of serious injury, particularly facial. Adults have longer hospitalizations, most frequently for upper extremity injury. Risk factors include: child, males, households with dogs, certain breeds, male dogs, home location, and leashed dog.
Conclusions—Dog bite rates are high and it may therefore be assumed that current preventative interventions are inadequate. Responsible dog ownership, including separating young children from dogs, avoiding high risk dogs, neutering, regulatory enforcement, and standardized monitoring of bite rates are required. Controlled investigations of further risk and protective factors, and validated methods of breed identification, are needed.