Children are the most common victims of dog bites in Montgomery County, which officials say is unsurprising but scary since they are the group most likely to be severely injured during the incidents .
So far this year, those younger than age 18 suffered about half the bites reported to Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County, mirroring a long-standing national trend of kids being bitten at disproportionate rates.
Dog bites are deadly in rare instances. Of the eight people who have been killed by dogs in Ohio since 2014, two were children and the rest were in their 50s or older.
But when a 60-year-old man was killed last month in an alley in northwest Dayton, this newspaper discovered that multiple children had been attacked by dogs at or near that location, suffering injuries that required surgery and dozens of stitches.
Children, especially young kids, often do not know how to read a dog’s body language, interact in a gentle and safe manner with the animals or protect themselves or escape danger when one becomes aggressive, officials said.
“Children may tend to play more frequently and aggressively with dogs,” said Dan Suffoletto, spokesman with Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County. “Before parents allow their children to play with a dog, they should check with the dog’s owner to gauge how the dog will react to a child’s invitation to play.”
This year, just more than 300 dog bites have been reported to Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County.
Victims ranged in age from babies to septuagenarians, but 146 of the victims were 17 and younger.
About one in five people bitten by dogs require medical attention, and children are far more likely to be seriously injured during dog attacks and require medical treatment, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Across the nation, the rate of dog-bite-related injuries is highest among children ages 5 to 9, federal data states.
Dayton Children’s Hospital in 2011 said it treated about 250 children each year for dog bites.
“Most young children are about the same size as dogs and the dogs may see these children as a threat,” said Thomas Krzmarzick, medical director of the Soin Regional Pediatric Trauma and Emergency Center at Dayton Children’s.
Krzmarzick urged parents to teach their children how to interact with dogs in ways that avoid bites and injuries.
He said 85 percent of dogs that bite have never bitten before, meaning dogs with perfectly clean histories may still act aggressively if they get scared and feel threatened.
Nearly one in five bites become infected, which can put victims at risk of illness or dangerous medical conditions, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dog bites can transmit rabies and result in bacterial infections and tissue damage.