Many of us are now spending a lot more time with our pets due to the COVID-19 pandemic and North Carolina’s stay-at-home order. With families and pets cooped up together day after day, it seems like an ideal time to point out that April 12-April 18 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week.
There’s good reason to raise awareness about dog bite risks and prevention. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 4.5 million people receive dog bites each year in the United States.
Children are the most common victims in these attacks; between 2000 and 2015, victims under age 16 made up more than half of the fatalities involving dog bites. Even seemingly minor bites can lead to infections that require medical treatment.
So how can you and your family help prevent dog biting incidents?
One of the first things to keep in mind is that all dogs–regardless of breed, size, or how long you’ve known them–can bite you. In fact, the majority of dog bites impacting young kids involve dogs they know, according to the AVMA.
Pets may attack because they are sick, injured, stressed, or frightened. If they get overstimulated during playtime, dogs could start nipping. Animals may bite if they are trying to protect something that belongs to them, such as food, toys, or puppies.
Considering the stats on dog bites and children, it is essential that kids learn how to properly engage with dogs and other animals. (And, let’s be honest, we adults can use some reminders about this as well!)
Here are some do’s and don’ts to remember:
*Ask for owners’ permission before petting their dogs.
*Keep your pets vaccinated for rabies and other diseases. Sick dogs are more likely to attack.
*Make sure your pets receive proper socialization and exercise.
*Keep your dogs on a leash or in a fenced area when they’re outside.
*Teach young children how to be respectful with dogs and other pets. They should learn not to tease, poke, pinch, grab, shake, or squeeze animals. Dogs shouldn’t continue to be bothered when they’re done playing. Teasing animals by taking away their treats or toys should also be avoided.
*Pay attention to a dog’s body language. This shouldn’t be relied upon fully because all dogs can express feelings differently. However, a stiffened body or a tail tucked under the belly or leg could signal that a dog is feeling threatened or scared. Obviously, growling and snapping are both clear signs that you need to stop interacting with an animal.
*Interact with unknown or stray dogs, or with dogs who are not accompanied by their owners.
*Leave children alone with animals. Make sure you monitor their interactions.
*Bother a dog that is eating or sleeping. Respect a dog’s territory, whether it be a simple pet bed or a large crate.
We hope this list can help keep your homes and neighborhoods safe for both you and your furry pals!