Researchers in the United States have found that pit bulls and mixed breed dogs pose the greatest risk of biting children and cause the most damage.
A study, conducted by The Ohio State University College of Medicine and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, explored the risks of dog bite injuries to the face in children and bite severity by breed, size and head structure.
"The purpose of this study was to evaluate dog bites in children, and we specifically looked at how breed relates to bite frequency and bite severity," Dr. Garth Essig, lead author and otolaryngologist at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center, was quoted as saying.
"Because mixed breed dogs account for a significant portion of dog bites, and we often didn't know what type of dog was involved in these incidents, we looked at additional factors that may help predict bite tendency when breed is unknown like weight and head shape."
To assess bite severity, researchers sifted through 15 years of dog-related facial trauma cases from Nationwide Children's Hospital and the University of Virginia Health System.
They also performed an extensive literature search from 1970 for dog bite papers and combined their findings with hospital data to determine relative risk of biting and average tissue damage of bite.
"There's an estimated 83 million owned dogs in the United States and that number continues to climb," said Dr. Essig. "We wanted to provide families with data to help them determine the risk to their children and inform them on which types of dogs do well in households with kids."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.7 million people in the United State are bitten by dogs annually, and 20 percent of these victims require medical care for their injuries. Those who require treatment after dog bites are predominately children ages 5 to 9 years.
"Young children are especially vulnerable to dog bites because they may not notice subtle signs that a dog may bite," study co-author Dr. Charles Elmaraghy was quoted as saying.
"We see everything from simple lacerations to injuries in which there's significant tissue loss that needs grafting or other reconstructive surgery," Dr. Charles, an associate professor of otolaryngology at Ohio State's College of Medicine and chief of otolaryngology at Nationwide Children's Hospital, said.