The Minnesota Health Department is out with its first report on hospital-treated dog bites in the state. From 1998 to 2005, the rate of bites requiring an emergency room visit or hospitalization rose 40 percent.
The Health Department says the largest growth was in the number of dog bites treated in emergency departments, and children between the ages of 1 and 4 had the highest rate of dog bites requiring hospital treatment.
Minnesota Department of Health investigator Heather Day says officials aren't exactly sure why the rate has increased. But they have some theories.
"Part of it may be that there are more dogs, and therefore, more dog and human contact. Some of the increase could possibly be through more hospitals reporting this information to the hospital association. But it looks like the increase is certainly a real one," Day says.
She says the study also found that 75 percent of the victims were familiar with the dog that bit them. The dog bites most often occurred in the home and yard.
The study was not able to document the breeds of dogs involved in the attacks.
The report recommends that doctors counsel parents about the importance of supervising their children when they're around dogs.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)