What causes animals to bite?

Updated: Sep 14, 2020
  • Author: Suzanne K Doud Galli, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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Epidemiologic studies have shown that most dog and cat bites are not from stray animals. Rather, the animal is often the pet of the victim or an acquaintance of the victim. In many animal bites in children, the animal was inadvertently provoked by the child. Infant swings have been linked to dog attacks. [11]

A prospective study by Touré indicated that risk factors for dog bites to the face include young age, a single-parent environment, and the presence of a German shepherd–type dog. In the study, which included 108 facial dog-bite patients, 68.5% of victims were under age 16 years, with 33.3% of them aged 2-5 years; 91.3% of bites took place in a single-parent environment. [12]

A study by Rezac et al indicated that human behaviors that increase the risk of dog bites to the face include bending over a dog and putting one’s face near a dog’s face (76% and 19% of cases, respectively). Gazing between humans and dogs also increased the risk (5% of cases). In the study, which involved 132 cases, more than two thirds of those bitten were children. [13]

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