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Friday, July 24, 2009

Little Land Sharks

Today I read an article in one of my journals that might be surprising to laypeople, but wouldn't be a surprise to anyone in the veterinary field. The title caught my interest.

"Study: Chihuahuas bite vets most; Lhaso Apsos inflict worst injuries"

A study performed in Colorado studied bite statistics and learned some interesting facts. The tendencies of certain breeds to bite was one of the most telling items. Labrador Retrievers were the most likely to bite at 13% of the total. This was followed by Pit Bulls (8.4%), German Shepherds (7.8%), Rottweilers (3.9%), and Chow-Chows (3.5%). Among children the data was similar: Labs (15.6%), Pitt Bulls (7.5%), German Shepherds (6.8%), Chihuahuas (4.2%), and Rottweilers (4.1%). However, just because a dog was likely to bite didn't mean that the bite was severe. The most severe injuries were made by American Bulldogs, Dalmations, Dachshunds, English Bulldogs, and Lhasa Apsos.

The study was not without possible flaws, as it is estimated that only 6.2% of bites are actually reported to animal control. And in the study, only 0.28% of the dogs estimated in the area were responsible for bites. It is also likely that bites from large breeds are reported more often than bites from small breeds, making large breeds overrepresented and small breeds underrepresented. About 40% of all bites are by mixed-breed dogs.

I often tell me that I'm much more likely to be bit by a chihuahua than a pit bull. However, if the chihuahua bites me it will be annoying and at worst may need a stitch or two. If the pit bites me, I'll be lucky to not need major surgery. My experience has showed me that chihuahuas are one of the breeds most likely to try and take a piece of me, and I'm very cautious around them. Pit bulls are some of the friendliest that I generally work with, at least towards people. I'm cautious around many terriers and shih-tzus, as well as chows, German shepherds, and Rottweilers. But I've seen friendly and aggressive dogs in just about every breed.

The risk of being bitten is one of the major daily hazards of the profession. Most of us get good at reading body language and learning how to avoid bites. But every once-in-a-while we misjudge a pet and manage to receive a wound. Thankfully, none of the bites I've personally received have been very serious. But I still have decades of career left to get a bad one.

So watch out for those small dogs! You may not think about it, but they're the ones you have to be careful with.