Dog and Cat Bites - Causes

How common are cat and dog bites?

Dog bites are the most common type of animal bite. Of the people who attend A&E departments with bites, 6 to 9 out of 10 have dog bites. Cat bites are less common. Around 5-20 out of every 100 people attending A&E with a bite have been bitten by a cat.

In the UK about 250,000 people each year go to an emergency department because they have been bitten by a dog. Probably many more bites occur but people do not see a doctor about them, so it is hard to be sure. In the USA, 4.5 million people are thought to be bitten by a dog every year, with 885,000 seeking medical attention. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that globally tens of millions of people are bitten by dogs each year.

Who is at risk?

Bites are caused most often by the owner's own pet or an animal known to them. Boys get bitten more than girls. Children are most commonly affected. Children are more likely to be bitten on the head or neck and are therefore more likely to have the more serious bites. Severe dog bites occur most often in children under the age of 5 years.

Some dogs are more dangerous than others. Those thought to be most dangerous include rottweilers, pit bull terriers, and German shepherd dogs, but even small dogs can inflict serious bites. Some that can cause the worst injury, such as pit bull terriers, are illegal to own in the UK.

Many animal bites are unprovoked. However, animals are more likely to bite if they are frightened, suddenly disturbed, or feel threatened.

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Dr Mary Harding
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Document ID:
4380 (v42)
Last Checked:
04 July 2017
Next Review:
03 July 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.