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It's summer time, and the dogs are biting

Any dog can ... and many will


June 6, 1997
Web posted at: 7:19 p.m. EDT (2319 GMT)

From Correspondent Rhonda Rowland

ATLANTA (CNN) -- The arrival of warm weather brings with it its own kind of health hazards, from allergy-inducing pollen and mold to stinging bees, biting insects and burning sun.

There is one hazard, however, that is often overlooked, perhaps because it is often thought of as man's best friend: the biting dog.

Every 40 seconds in the United States, government health officials say, someone goes to the doctor for treatment of a dog bite.


Indeed, says Dr. Jeffrey Sacks of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, "Between 1979 and 1996, 306 people died from dog attacks."

Sacks says the children are most often the victims of dog bites, and for obvious reasons.

"First of all, they're at face level with the dog, so they're not seen as a dominant figure to a dog," he says. "And often children's behavior -- need I tell parents? -- is unpredictable."

Preventive measures are the best medicine, of course.

Any dog can and will bite

One of the first lessons is to know the signs of friendly and aggressive dogs. An aggressive dog has a tight mouth, flattened ears and a direct stare. A friendly dog is relaxed; its tail wags, the mouth is open and relaxed and the ears are relaxed.


Tracy Underwood of Best Friends Pet Resort says that even if a dog appears friendly, it is wise to approach carefully.

"Approach dogs slowly, and ask the owner's permission before you pet a dog," Underwood says. "If it's your own dog, stay away from his food bowl, his toys and his bones when he's chewing on them."

If you encounter a threatening dog, neither yell at it nor run from it. Instead, stand still and raise your hands so the dog can't bite them. Also, be sure to avoid eye contact with the animal.

Owners have a responsibility, too. Male dogs and dogs of either gender that haven't been spayed or neutered are more likely to bite.

If you are bitten, Sacks says, see a doctor to be sure there is no infection, even with a minor bite.

The best protection is to be aware. The dog may be man's best friend, but under the right circumstances, experts say, any dog can and will bite.


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