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Hot days and dog bites

Rising temperatures: a study by Scientific Reports found that dogs are more likely to bite on hot, sunny days

Recent research has been published in Scientific Reports which has found that the risk of being bitten by a dog is higher on hot, sunny days.

The study was run in the US over a ten-year period, looking at 70,000 reports of dog bites from eight different cities.

It found that dog bite incidents increased by 11 per cent on days with higher UV levels, and by 4 per cent on days with a higher temperature.

It also interestingly showed that dog bite incidents decreased on weekends and holidays.

It is unclear from the study if dog behaviour is directly altered by the increased temperature, or if the observed increase is due to altered behaviour by the human victim.

Previous research has suggested that people commit more violent crimes when temperatures are higher, and aggression levels generally are higher in warm weather. Perhaps it is this that is driving the increased biting?

The study did not cover the pandemic period, however, but other studies have shown the incidents of children being bitten by dogs increased during this period.

This has largely been related to increased forced proximity during lockdown events.

It has also been suggested that dogs are getting less sleep than they ideally require due to a rise in at home working, dog daycare and group walking, making them more tired, grumpy, and potentially aggressive.

Why then, according to this new study, are biting incidents reduced on weekends and holidays?

The thought process is that dogs are more likely to get a fulfilling walk with their owner at the weekend, but also time to rest whilst their owner relaxes after a busy work week.

It’s an ideal situation for the dog, making them more content and potentially less aggressive.

This study becomes more relevant in a situation of ever-increasing climate temperature due to global warming.

Not only do we need to be concerned with our pets overheating, burning their paw pads, getting sunburned or having breathing difficulties, but there is the added potential for increased aggression leading to serious human injury.

Dog owners and those of us that work in animal care will need to be aware of these changes in aggression in order to alter our behaviour to mitigate risk.

As temperatures are only set to rise, so could the risk of serious injury from dog bites.

If you combine this with the desire for more bully breeds, such as the infamous American bully XL, we may be in for a perfect storm.

Maybe now is the time to start breeding for less aggression and a more placid temperament within our breeds to help reduce these risks?

Lucy Richardson graduated from Edinburgh University in 2005. She started CedarTree Vets in August 2012 with her husband, Mark. They live at the practice with their two children, Ray and Stella, and their dog, two cats and two guinea pigs. Dr Lucy is also the FEI national head veterinarian for Bermuda

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Published September 14, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated September 14, 2023 at 7:17 am)

Hot days and dog bites

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