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The number of Americans hospitalized for dog bites almost doubled over a 15-year-period, increasing to 9,500 in 2008 from 5,100 in 1993, a new government study reports (Emergency Department Visits and Inpatient Stays Involving Dog Bites, 2008). The increase vastly exceeded population growth, and pet ownership increased only slightly during the same period, said the report’s author, Anne Elixhauser, a senior research scientist with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Common principal diagnoses for dog bite-related hospitalizations included skin and subcutaneous tissue infections; open wounds of extremities; open wounds of head, neck, and trunk; and fractures of upper limbs.

About 866 people a day went to the emergency room with dog bites in 2008, and about 26 people were admitted each day.

Children under 5 and adults 65 and older were most likely to be hospitalized after a bite, and residents of rural areas made four times as many emergency room visits and had three times as many hospital admissions for dog bites than those from nonrural areas, the report said.

Dog bite wounds are difficult to treat and can leave nasty scars. It is important to immediately contact a doctor who can provide the dog bite treatment needed to minimize infection and scarring.

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