How Many People Died From Dog Attacks?

March 19, 2024

The number of people killed by dogs is minuscule compared to the 4.5 million bite incidents each year in the US. However, the losses of a family member killed by a dog can be substantial and surviving loved ones are often entitled to large dog bite settlements.

A new study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine sifted through over 20 years of data from the Veterinary Medical Database (VMDB) at 27 North American veterinary schools and colleges. The researchers analyzed the causes of death in 2667 dogs that were euthanased and 2487 that died unassisted. They also looked at age and breed-related factors.

The researchers categorized the diseases into one of twelve classifications: inflammatory/infectious, metabolic/toxic, traumatic, degenerative, neoplastic, idiopathic, congenital, alimentary, immunologic/allergic and mechanical. The most common cause of death was neoplastic in both the multiorgan and haemolymphatic systems. Other significant causes included spinal disorders (para- or tetraplegia/paresis) in the youngest dogs, and cancer in the oldest group.

The authors found that Rottweilers, Saint Bernards and Great Danes were responsible for a higher number of fatal attacks than other breeds, but only when looking at the total number of deaths and not taking into account the proportion of the breeds’ population in each country. When looking at the relative risk of death, the authors determined that Pit Bull-type dogs were not any more dangerous than other breeds, and even less so than huskies and German Shepherds. They also determined that a larger breed size is not associated with a greater chance of dog attack.


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