Dog bites are more serious than you think. Here’s how to avoid dangerous situations

Now that 2023 is in full swing, you can hit the local hiking trails, home to new athletes like you and their well-meaning but sometimes aggressive dogs, who can deliver a serious bite if you’re not careful.

Even if you’re minding your own business during your New Year’s run, dogs can bite you. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 4.5 million people in the US are bitten by dogs every year.

And according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dog bites pose a serious health hazard to humans, especially children, who make up half of the bitten victims. Almost every fifth victim needs medical assistance.

In 2022, the non-profit organization Friends of the Katy Trail said it had received no reports of dog bites. Ashley Navarrett, clinical assistant at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said she has seen many instances of dog-to-dog aggression in her veterinary practice, adding that dog bites are a problem in Texas.

The good news is that most dogs only attack people when provoked, and most bites can be prevented. But even the cutest of dogs can bite.

Here’s what you need to know about dogs and their ability to bite, as well as some tips on how to avoid dangerous situations involving dog aggression.

Like other animals, dogs have a self-defense mechanism that protects them from dangerous situations.

When dogs find themselves in a stressful situation or feel threatened, they may bite to protect themselves and their territory, according to the AVMA.

“I would say, more often than not, that the highest incident is based on fear,” said Navarrett, who is director of primary care at the A&M veterinary school. “They are afraid of any situation.”

In times of fear, dogs may either run away or fight. Often dogs cannot escape, so they resort to fights.

Mother dogs may become aggressive if they feel their pup is in danger. According to the AVMA, other dogs may bite if they feel sick, hurt from an injury, or want to be left alone.

The ability of a dog to bite does not depend on its breed. Naverett added that cats can also bite people and other animals.

The AVMA warns that an individual dog’s behavior determines its ability to bite, which means that any dog, big or small, can bite; man or woman; young or old.

Naverett noted that she sees increased levels of aggression in dogs that are not neutered or that have not been neutered or neutered.

Children face a much higher risk of being bitten by a dog, especially those who are unsupervised and may not know how to behave around dogs.

Because of their height, some children are more likely to be at the same level as a dog, making them more vulnerable to facial bites. These wounds tend to be more traumatic than hand and foot injuries, Naverett said.

To avoid getting into a dangerous situation, Naverette says it’s important to pay attention to the body language of dogs.

Fortunately, there are some telltale signs. In addition to barking and growling, dogs often lick their lips or try to veer away from a situation that could escalate. Other common signs of impending aggression include dilated pupils and pricked ears.

“Another thing you’ll notice is that as they get closer and closer, you’ll start to notice that their mouth starts to tighten up,” Naverett said.

She also recommends that parents teach their children how to properly and safely interact with dogs. Not all dogs are comfortable around people, and they may have a history of aggression.

“I think most of us have probably been taught that the way to greet a dog is to reach out … and that’s actually not a good thing because it invades their space,” she said.

The clinician noted that it is best for the dog to approach you and “make a conscious decision to interact with you.”

If you have been bitten by a dog, it is best to seek medical attention right away and consult a doctor for treatment. Bites can vary in size and severity.

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