The number of dog attacks which lead to hospital stays are on the rise, new figures suggest. In 2013, dog "bites and strikes" caused 6,740 hospital admissions in England - a 6% rise from the previous year, the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) said.
Children aged up to nine years old accounted for the highest number of admissions and the most common ailment was an injury to the wrist or hand. The figures also suggested that the attacks were more common in the summer , the HSCIC said.
Researchers at the health data service found that the rates of hospital admissions were three times higher for people from poor areas compared to their wealthier neighbours.
Out of every 100,000 people who live in the most deprived areas of England there were 24 people admitted to hospital because of a dog attack. Meanwhile, in the richest regions there were eight admissions for every 100,000 people, the figures showed. The highest rate of admissions for dog bites and strikes was noted in Merseyside, where 23.6 people out of every 100,000 had to endure a hospital stay.
This was followed by Durham, Darlington and Tees and West Yorkshire where 22.8 per 100,000 and 21.7 per 100,000 people were admitted respectively. Admissions were lowest in Kent and Medway, where 5.3 out of every 100,000 people were admitted after a dog bite or strike, followed by Surrey and Sussex and London.
The figures also showed the number of hospital admissions as a result of other animal attacks was also on the rise. Bites and strikes from other mammals such as horses, foxes and cats accounted for 2,970 admissions - a 10% increase compared to the previous 12 month period.
Admissions caused by other mammals were highest in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and lowest in Birmingham and the Black County, the HSCIC said.
"Today's report shows that hospital admissions for bites and strikes by dogs are three times as high in the most deprived areas of England as in the least deprived areas," HSCIC chairman Kingsley Manning said. "Our statistics also show that hospitals have dealt with more admissions for bites and strikes by mammals compared to last year.
"We know that dog bite rates are particularly high among young children. As we head towards the summer months, when admission rates for dog bites are at their highest, these trends may be worth further study by healthcare organisations and public sector bodies."
Caroline Kisko, secretary of dog organisation the Kennel Club, said: "Dogs are a huge part of our lives in Britain and children are naturally curious and excited to be around them, so it is crucial that they are taught from an early age how best to interact with them.
"As we head towards summer, more and more dog owners will be out walking their pets for longer, so now is the perfect opportunity to sit down with your child and speak to them about dog safety, and using the tips and game available through the Kennel Club's Safe and Sound Scheme, have some fun at the same time."
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