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Summer is Dog Bite Season for Kids

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Here's how you can keep your kids safe.

mom talking to her kid.

Every year, nearly five million people are bitten by dogs in the United States. 800,000 people, more than half of them children, require medical attention for those bites. Sadly, many of these cases are fatal, or leave kids disfigured for life.

To make matters worse, young children appear to be at particular risk of dog bite injuries to the head and neck, with most incidents happening during warmer weather.

In a review of injuries treated at their children's hospital, researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo found that the incidence of head and neck dog bite injuries peaked in the summer months.

This may have to do with the fact that children are outdoors more in good weather, and that dogs tend to be more irritable in hot temperatures.

The bottom line is that parents have to be particularly cautious in warmer weather. Dr. Philomena M. Behar told Reuters Health: "Young children, especially, are at risk of dog bites because of their size and inability to sense danger."

Of the 84 children in the study, ages ranged from 10 months to 19 years, with an average age of 6. About half of the injured children were 4 years old or younger.

Behar's team also found that the family pet was to blame in 27% of cases. Of dog breeds, pit bulls were most commonly involved. "Family dogs caused injury a large part of the time," Behar said, "and caution should be used by caregivers of small children when there are dogs around -- especially in warmer weather."

In general, experts advise that parents teach children how to treat dogs -- telling them, for instance, that they should not pull a dog's ears or tail, pet strange animals, or reach through fences to touch a dog.

Training the family dog is also important. Commands, experts say, can build obedience and a bond of trust between the dog and owner. Dogs that are neutered are also less likely to bite.

Join our family dog discussion in the momlogic community, and weigh in on how to keep your family safe here.

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