Resources for National Dog Bite Prevention Week 2017

This year, National Dog Bite Prevention Week® has moved from May to April, and will remain a signature April event in the future. Sponsors of National Dog Bite Prevention Week moved the event up in the calendar in an attempt to educate the public and prevent more bite injuries. Bites occur most commonly in children, and more bite injuries occur in the summer months. The exact reason for these phenomena are unknown, but perhaps because children and dogs are frequently together outdoors in the warmer months or maybe dogs are cranky, just like the rest of us are when the weather is hot and sticky.

The Coalition
Dog bite injury affects many facets of society and the coalition sponsoring the event reflects that. The coalition includes the American Veterinary Medical Association, United States Postal Service, State Farm Insurance, American Humane, Insurance Information Institute, and Positively®, Victoria Stilwell. Each one of these organizations brings valuable information from their perspective about dog bite prevention. I have summarized some of those resources below.

American Veterinary Medical Association
Doggie Do’s and Don’ts: Dog Safety and You, the AVMA bilingual coloring book. You can download a copy for free for your child or order enough for a whole classroom of children.

State Farm Insurance
Insurance companies pay millions of dollars each year for dog bite claims and have a vested interest in decreasing the annual number of dog bites. State Farm’s website provides information about preventing and responding to a bite incident. The site also has several other dog safety related articles of interest to pet families.

American Humane 
If you are a teacher looking for a lesson plan about animals, check the website of American Humane. Although not directly focused on dog bite prevention, these prefabricated plans have been devised for students 5-7 years of age and run 45 minutes in length. The plan includes worksheets and coloring pages which can easily be reproduced for classroom use.

Positively, Victoria Stilwell
This British television dog trainer and promoter of positive re-enforcement methods of dog training has recorded a podcast with tips to stop dogs from biting. Download the podcast and make listening to it a family activity.

A Few Personal Favorites
Dog bite prevention information is not limited to coalition members. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a podcast on bite prevention.

Dogs participating in obedience training are less likely to bite and I recommend all puppies and dogs successfully complete an obedience training course. One of the many courses available is the Canine Good Citizen program sponsored by the American Kennel Club.

Finally, for the most updated information on bite prevention, tune into the National Dog Bite Prevention Week coalition’s press conference on Thursday, April 6, featuring:
• Demonstrations by veterinary specialists on dog bite prevention
• Release of the number of postal carriers bitten in 2016
• Announcement of the average cost of dog bite claims nationally in 2016, as well as the top 10 states with the largest number of dog bite claims in the U.S.

Five+ Animal Behavior Resources for Pet Families

dog behavior

Behavior problems are a clear pain point for pet parents. I have written in the past about dogs who bite and how to prevent dogs bites. Other common behavior issues include anxietyinappropriate urination and litter box concerns. All these behavior problems are cause for relinquishment of pets to shelter. To help pet families cope with behavior problem in their pets, I have collated some behavior resources, because when your pet is misbehaving, you want help fast.

#1: Your Veterinarian
No one knows your pet like your family’s veterinarian. Bad behavior can simply be bad behavior or it may indicate a medical problem. For example, urinary accidents often indicate a bladder infection and an unprovoked bite suggests there may be a painful disease underlying your pet’s uncharacteristic biting behavior. So if your pet is acting out, the first stop is your family’s veterinarian.

#2: Veterinary Specialist Certified in Behavior
If your family veterinarian doesn’t find a medical problem and the behavior problem is serious, you and your pet might be referred to a board certified veterinary behaviorist. These specially trained veterinarians have residency-level training and specialty board certification as experts in correcting serious behavior problems in pets. Because these specialists are veterinarians, they can use special techniques to improve bad behavior AND prescribe medications such as tranquilizers, antianxiety drugs and behavior modifying drugs to curb bad behaviors.

#3: Certified Dog Trainers
Some behavior problems can easily be corrected by diligent work with a certified dog trainer. Certification is not required to be a dog trainer, but choosing a trainer with a certification suggests that he/she has participated in a training program to gain skills. A full discussion of the various types of certification is beyond the scope of this blog, but the Association of Professional Dog Trainers has a nice discussion on the topic.

#4: Graduate Trained Animal Behaviorists
Animal behaviorists have a Master’s or PhD degree in animal behavior from a university. While they are not veterinarians and thus cannot prescribe medications, many veterinarians collaborate with animal behaviorists to correct behavior problems in their patients.

#5: Internet Resources
Sometimes you just need a bit of information to help you correct your pet’s bad behavior or understand what might be going on. Here are some internet resources from reliable sources:

World Rabies Day 2016

world rabies dayEducate. Vaccinate. Eliminate.” is the theme for World Rabies Day 2016. American pet owners’ familiarity with rabies is limited to vaccinations administered in the veterinarian’s office and a number of horror films featuring rabid animals. To those living in less developed countries, rabies is a daily threat.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates one person dies of rabies every 10 minutes, the majority in rural Africa and Asia. Because young children are most susceptible to bites from dogs, 4 out of every 10 human rabies victims are under the age of 15. Educate your children on how to safely interact with dogs and protect them against bite injury and the possibility of rabies.

Rabies vaccinations are critical to decreasing rabies in both humans and animals. Rabies vaccine is available for people, but the vaccine is prohibitively expensive for those living in less developed countries. In the United States, only those with a high risk of exposure to rabid animals get vaccinated – veterinarians for example. For victims of dog bites, rabies immune globulin can prevent the disease, if administered shortly after the bite injury. But like the human rabies vaccine, rabies treatment is often beyond the financial means of those living in less developed countries than ours. Mass vaccination of dogs may be the best way to eliminate rabies in humans.

Reduction of human rabies cases to zero requires vaccination of at least 70% of the dog population. One of the reasons the United States has only sporadic cases of canine rabies is our high rate of vaccination of dogs. Mass vaccination programs for dogs in underdeveloped countries are much more affordable than human vaccination and have become an important method of controlling rabies. If the dogs are protected against rabies, so are humans. Organizations like the WHO, World Organization for Animal Health, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and Global Alliance for the Control of Rabies are working together to vaccinate dogs in hopes of eliminating human deaths from rabies.

Do Your Part
Despite rabies being an uncommon disease in our world, be sure your dog and cat are vaccinated against this fatal disease. If you or a family member are bitten by a dog, thoroughly wash the bite with soap and water, followed by application of a disinfectant. Check with your family physician about the need for antibiotic treatment. For severe bite injuries, go directly to the emergency room.

What to Do if Your Dog Bites Someone

May 17 -23, 2015 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. The United States has 70 million dogs, all of them wonderful companions, but any dog can bite. Animal bites are a serious problem, affecting 4.7 million people per year, most of them children. Senior citizens are the second most common age group affected by bite injuries.

Preventing Bite Injuries
The best defense against dog bite injuries is prevention. Responsible dog owners follow these general guidelines to prevent their dog from becoming a biter:

  • Train your dog. Obedience trained dogs are less likely to bite.
  • Keep your dog in control and on a leash when walking on the street or in the park.
  • Leave your sick dog home. Sick dogs a prone to biting because, just like you, they are cranky when they are sick.
  • Neuter your male dog. Unneutered male dogs are more often involved in bite incidents than neutered ones.
  • Supervise all children-dog interactions.
  • Teach your children how to safely interact with dogs.

Invest in Insurance
If, despite your best efforts, your dog bites a person, you may be fined for having a dangerous dog, in violation of a local ordinance for having a dog off leash or other violations. There is also the potential for the person bitten to bring a lawsuit against you. Check your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy to make sure it includes coverage for the family dog. According to the Insurance Information Institute, one third of all homeowner insurance claims paid in 2013 were for dog bite injuries. New York State had the highest average cost per claim, at $43,122.

Keep Rabies Vaccination Up to Date
Should your dog become involved in a bite incident, provide the injured party with a copy of your dog’s rabies vaccination certificate as soon as possible.  Their physician will need to know this information when determining what treatments are necessary for the bite injury. If the injured party needs emergency medical care, the ER may be required to report the bite to the local health department. Officials from the health department will monitor your dog’s health and as long as the rabies vaccination is up to date, may put your dog under home quarantine for a specified period of time.

Teaching Children Safe Dog Interaction
Join us on May 30, 2015 from 10am-1pm for AMC’s annual PAW Day: Pet And Wellness fun at Carl Schurz Park on E. 84th Street and East End Avenue in Manhattan. This event is family friendly, including your furry friends!  At PAW Day, specially trained dogs will be available for children to practice safe dog interactions. The event features a stuffed animal veterinary clinic, Clifford the Big Red Dog, face painting and a whole lot more.

Is a Cat Bite Worse than a Dog Bite?

The feline dental arcade on the left shows the sharp fangs responsible for serious injury from cat bites. The photo on the right shows the blunter, less tapered fangs of a dog.

May 18-24 is Dog Bite Prevention Week. Once again the cat is ignored, possibly since cat bites are less common than dog bites. But cat bites are a serious problem and should not be disregarded. In New York City, 17% of animal bites injuries seen in emergency rooms are from cats and over 70% from dogs.

Animal bites are a significant public health issue. Every year 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs and 150,000 of these people require medical attention. Children ages five to nine and males, regardless of age, are more commonly involved in dog bite incidents than adults and females. Dog bite injuries to children less than four years of age typically involve a bite to the head.

Cats, being a completely different beast than dogs, cause different types of bite injuries than dogs do. Dog bites may look worse, because their teeth are larger, but the slender, sharp fangs of a cat penetrate deeply into the tissues. Cat bites are more likely to introduce bacteria deep into the wound, causing serious infection and damage to tendons and ligaments. In a recent Mayo Clinic study, one third of patients bitten on the hand by a cat were hospitalized and two thirds of those patients needed surgery to treat the bite injury. Middle-aged women were the most common victims of cat bites to the hand.

Because children love dogs, teaching them safe behavior around dogs is important. Using common sense and a little practice of appropriate behavior around dogs, children can safely interact with dogs. This Saturday, May 17th, The Animal Medical Center is hosting PAW Day, its annual pet health fair for families and their pets, from 10:00am – 1:00pm in Carl Schurz Park at 84th Street and East End Avenue, where your child can practice interacting with dogs. This free community awareness event will include a children’s area with Clifford the Big Red Dog, face painting, pet safety information, a stuffed animal vet clinic and much more!

Pet and Wellness Fun this Saturday, May 18, 2013

Looking for a fun, outdoor activity for the whole family this weekend? Join us at The AMC’s Annual PAW (Pet and Wellness) Day celebration in Carl Schurz Park (84th Street and East End Avenue, 10am – 1pm), where every family member, including the furry ones, will find special activities designed just for them.

Doggy massages and more
Members of The AMC’s Tina Santi Flaherty Rehabilitation & Fitness Service will teach two sessions on how to relax your dog with yoga and massage. Veterinary staff from The AMC will provide free screenings for canine high blood pressure (hypertension), tooth brushing lessons, obesity assessment and many other hands-on health activities.

There will also be two sessions entitled, “Pet First Aid for the Pet Owner,” presented by one of The AMC’s board certified emergency and critical care veterinarians. Other specialist veterinarians from The AMC will be on hand to answer questions about pet health and disease. They will distribute pamphlets and fliers as well as free samples of treats and pet products.

Kid’s stuff
This year, PAW Day will feature a dog well known to children – Clifford, the Big Red Dog, from the PBS series of the same name. Another PAW Day highlight for children will be the stuffed animal veterinary clinic. Children may bring their favorite stuffed animal for a veterinary examination and treatment or adopt an animal at the event. Children attending PAW Day can also purchase a veterinary kit and receive instruction on examination techniques by the highly trained AMC veterinarians.

Over 400,000 children receive medical treatment each year for dog bite injuries. Since children are the most common victims of dog bites, every parent should be concerned with teaching their child how to safely interact with dogs. Children attending PAW Day can practice the four steps of being safe around dogs with friendly dog volunteers who will be on-hand. If children are shy around dogs, they can still learn about safe interactions with dogs at the coloring book station, which will be in a dog free zone.

PAW Day is free and open to the public, so stop by and say hello to your favorite AMC veterinarian! Check out The AMC’s website for additional information about the event:

Your Child and Animals: Advice to Parents

As parents, we want to raise children who have a reverence for all living things, and what better way to educate them about animals than to spend a day at a petting zoo, a country fair, or a natural science museum featuring live animal displays? Animal events are fun and educational for the entire family, but before you attend an animal event, your children need a bit of advance preparation to protect themselves. Animals in public setting have been associated with some preventable health issues such as infection, injury, and allergic reactions.

Infection connection

Rodents, reptiles, livestock, pocket pets, and even wild mammals visit schools and are displayed at county fairs and science museums. The potential dangers vary from animal to animal. Livestock can carry the bacteria E. coli, which causes gastrointestinal upset in humans. Just last week I read a report of an E. coli outbreak linked to a fair in North Carolina.

Reptiles commonly shed another bacterium causing gastrointestinal upset: Salmonella. This organism is the reason turtles less than 4 inches in size have been banned from sale. Most experts consider turtles appropriate pets for children over five years of age.

Approach animals cautiously

Parents take their children to visit animal displays because they want their children to be comfortable around animals and to appreciate the natural world. Before you go, make sure your child understands if the animals can be touched and, if so, how to approach one safely. If your child is bitten during one of these events, you risk dampening your child’s enthusiasm for animals and simultaneously exposing him to a serious injury or infection.

Even iguanas can cause allergies

If you have a child with animal allergies, check with her allergist about how best to handle an animal visitation. Most children allergic to dogs and cats are likely to be allergic to other furry critters such as guinea pigs, chinchillas, and rodents. Some people even have allergies to iguana scales.

Take home messages

  1. Teach children how to safely interact with an animal before visiting a petting zoo, county fair, or school event featuring animals.
  2. Wash hands after every animal interaction or use hand sanitizer.
  3. Children should not kiss animals or put their hands in their mouth after handling an animal.
  4. Children too young to follow directions about hand washing and keeping their hands out of their mouths should not handle animals in public displays.
  5. Because of the risk of transmitting an infection, hands should be washed after petting animals and before snack time.
  6. Wild animals do not make good pets.

If you are an early childhood educator, guidelines for animals in schools have been developed by the Centers for Disease Control.

Working Dogs Show Off at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital

Recently, some of my colleagues from The Animal Medical Center and I participated in the second annual Working Dog Expo at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in upper Manhattan. This unique event, sponsored by Angel On A Leash, brings working dogs into the children’s hospital for demonstrations and petting by hospitalized children, their parents, and other members of the hospital community. Children well enough to come into a public area attended in person and about 150 other children, unable to move about, watched the demonstrations on closed circuit TV in their rooms. Fifth graders from a neighborhood public school also attended.

Talented officer dogs

The children’s favorite demonstration was given by two police dogs. These high-energy officer dogs identified a backpack containing contraband and were rewarded with a good game of tug of war with their human partner. The human police officers brought a table full of protective gear, including a helmet and a 35-pound bulletproof vest, which proved to be a big hit with the children.

Learning to respect dogs

Although the dogs at the Expo were child-friendly and accustomed to working in crowds, my job at the Expo was to teach children safe and respectful behavior around dogs. Young children are the most common dog bite injury victims, and using guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics and some entertaining pictures, I walked the children through the steps of a safe dog interaction. Later the children practiced with dogs from Canine Companions for Independence, Angel On A Leash, and Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

Young puppy raisers

Two puppy raisers for Guiding Eyes for the Blind brought their puppies-in-training. For the first eighteen months of their lives, guide dogs live with a puppy raiser and learn basic commands, housebreaking, and proper behavior in the home. One of the puppy raisers was a 12-year-old boy who was raising his third guide dog puppy. He told the children in attendance, many of whom were no older than he was, of his experiences while taking his dog into stores and other public places as part of training. Because he was so young, shopkeepers did not always believe he was a puppy raiser and he frequently was prevented from entering with his dog.

Grateful humans

I was touched by a pair of heartwarming conversations about two working dogs who are patients of The AMC. The first conversation was with an owner of a one-eyed therapy dog. This dog visits sick children in the hospital every week. Several years ago, he lost an eye from an injury. His human therapy partner came to thank The AMC for offering free eye examinations to service dogs as part of a program sponsored by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmology.

Since this dog has only one eye, she is especially grateful we participate in this program promoting healthy eyes. The other visitor came to thank The AMC on behalf of his sister, who is blind and uses a guide eye dog to navigate her way around New York City. This gentleman relayed the story of bringing his sister and her critically ill dog to us. He was grateful for our Frank V.D. Lloyd Fund for Guide Dogs, which for nearly 50 years has paid for the care of working guide dogs and helped save his sister’s dog.

Do you have a good working dog story? Share it on this working dog website or in the comments below.

How Do You Know if Your Dog is in Pain?

I get asked this question daily by at least one worried dog owner. Since dogs can’t talk, how do we identify a dog in pain?

Dogs and Pain
Sometimes identifying pain is easy. Dogs hit by a car or suffering from another traumatic injury are obviously painful. Here is a photograph of an Irish Setter, with two reasons to be in pain. The leg on the right side of the photo looks red, sore and swollen. This skin change is induced by radiation therapy used to treat a bone tumor and it will resolve now that radiation is completed. The swelling is caused by a bone tumor. Bone tumors are particularly painful and tend to cause limping, which is what clued the dog owner in to Jack’s problem. Treatment is already making him walk better.

Back Pain in Dogs
A dog with a slipped disc in the back (intervertebral disc disease) typically cries and whines, without external signs of injury, but the dog owner can readily determine there is a pain problem. Sylvie, shown here after her back surgery, came toThe AMC because her owners noted her crying when they picked her up. Later, they noticed she was having difficulty walking. Examination at The AMC identified her back as the source of the pain and she had surgery to remove the disc and relieve the pain.

Signs of Subtle Pain
Extreme pain is reasonably easy to identify; subtle pain may not be so easy to spot. With hospitalized patients, we look for changes in the sleep-wake cycle, a decrease in appetite or poor grooming habits. We also watch how the dog sits or lays in its cage. Painful dogs may hide in the back of the cage or sit in a strange fashion to protect a painful area of their body. Licking, rubbing or scratching a particular area of the body may also indicate a painful area. Whining and crying are not reliable pain indicators, but we monitor these behaviors in our hospitalized patients in case they indicate pain in a particular individual.

If you think your animal is in pain, a trip to the veterinarian is in order. In the past few years, new drugs to treat pain have been developed for dogs. Keep in mind, painful animals are typically frightened and even the most docile pet can bite when handled if it is experiencing severe pain. If your dog is injured and needs transportation to the ER, consider using a muzzle, or if you don’t have one, a necktie to gently tie his muzzle closed while he is handled because you don’t want to have to go to the ER too.


This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.

10 Reasons to Go to the Pet ER Now!

Although I regularly share pet healthcare information on the AMC blog, I also like to remind readers that this information is not a substitute for a vet visit. You should always contact your veterinarian in an emergency. In case you are unsure as to what constitutes a pet emergency, here are my top ten reasons to take your pet to the ER (in no particular order):

1. Vomiting or diarrhea — not the run of the mill variety, but more than 2 or 3 times in an hour or if it is bloody. If the retching is unproductive in a dog with a distended abdomen, worry about bloat.

2. Red eye, runny eye or an eye injury. The littlest eye injury can quickly turn into a big problem.

3. Ingestion of a possible toxin, such as antifreeze (ethelene glycol), rat poison, human medications or a toxic plant.

4. Difficulty breathing or excessive coughing. Your dog might hold her head and neck extended to get more air or your cat might start breathing through his mouth.

5. Traumatic event such as being hit by a car or falling from a window. On the outside your pet might look fine, but internally may have suffered a serious injury.

6. Straining to urinate, especially if no urine is being produced.

7. Collapse, loss of consciousness or a possible seizure. Early intervention could prevent another one of these frightening episodes.

8. Bleeding from anywhere: a cut, a torn toenail or serious bruising under the skin.

9. An acute allergic reaction, especially if it involves swelling of the face and could compromise breathing.

10. Just to show the ER doctors how much better your pet is feeling and to thank them!


This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.