“Hospital admissions for dog bites are three times as high in the most deprived areas of England as in the least,” BBC News reports. Official data released today shows a striking correlation between deprivation and dog bite injuries.
Many health journalists also sunk their teeth into statistics that showed a 6% rise in dog bites on previous years.
The new figures come from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, an official source of health data for England and Wales. The Information Centre, which is also responsible for the NHS Choices website, releases a large amount of quarterly and annual data relating to all aspects of people's visits to hospital.
In its latest release they have a monthly topic of interest on hospital admissions caused by dog and other mammal bites.
The figures represent inpatient admissions, meaning someone has stayed overnight in hospital.
Most of these hospital visits, the Information Centre reports, would follow from attendance at A&E, so represent the most severe injuries caused by dogs. And as such it is likely to be an underestimate of the true number of dog bites that occur every year.
The dog bite figures are provisional for the period February 2013 to January 2014 meaning they may be incomplete or contain errors for which no adjustments have yet been made. They are checked later in the year and sometimes contain small revisions.
As the Information Centre points out, some of the regional variation in bites could be influenced by regional variation in the number of households owning a dog. If more people in a certain area own a dog, it may be logical to expect more bites in that area. However, the link with deprivation levels may be less obvious.
To some, the deprivation figures were not surprising. Dr Simon Harding a lecturer in criminology at the University of Middlesex and author of Unleashed: The Phenomena of Status Dogs and Weapons Dogs provided a possible explanation covered in The Independent. He said, “deprived areas are often more populous with larger families, more children, more pets and more people living in closer proximity to each other and dogs. Also dogs tend to be exercised in public, rather than in gardens or remote fields. At the same time people in poorer areas use dogs for protection, instead of alarms or house insurance and there is an underlying trend towards the use of aggressive Pit Bull-type breeds as weapon or status dogs.”
Interestingly, a 2008 US study, also found a similar link between deprivation and increased admission for dog bites.
As well as the possible reasons given above, the study discussed the possibility that poorer dog owners were less likely to have their dog trained or neutered. This could result in a dog that acts more unpredictably and aggressively.
Animal and human bites can become infected if they're not assessed and treated promptly as all mammals have bacteria in their mouths that can infect bites. Therefore, you should always seek medical advice unless the wound is very minor.
Read more about treating dog bites.