Expert comment: Rise in dog bite hospital admissions

small dog biting a person's jeans

The Royal College of Surgeons has today urged dog lovers to remember that while dogs may be man’s best friend they can, and at times do, bite. Latest figures show NHS hospitals have seen an almost 5% increase in dog-related admissions between 2015 and 2018.

To reduce the risk of being bitten, Univeristy of Liverpool animal behaviour expert Dr Carri Westgarth advises the public to get to know their dogs. She says that it is important they learn to read their pet dog’s body language, including the more subtle warning signs, such as excessive lip licking.

Dr Westgarth, said: “The chance of being bitten by pet dogs is often underestimated because of the relationship that people have with their pets. Many people think that they’re more likely to be bitten by a stranger’s dog but actually most people are bitten by dogs they know.

“Sometimes the assumption is that dogs only bite when provoked and this idea can lead to victim blaming. How people interact with dogs can be an influence, however bite risk can be increased by many other factors such as a dog’s environment or genetics.

“Dog owners can take preventative measures to reduce the risk of their dog(s) biting either owners or others. For instance, careful and considered selection of a dog – only buy dogs from reputable breeders; visit the dog in its home environment and meet its parents to observe their mannerisms; ensure your new dog attends a reputable training class; never leave young children and dogs alone together; and seek immediate professional behavior advice if your dog shows any signs of nervousness or aggression.”