- A similar trend has also been documented in India and in Nigeria.
- The Kenyan study also noted that children under 15 years were at higher risk of being bitten by a dog compared to older people.
There are many calamities to watch out for during the coming El Nino rains —floods, diseases, landslides. And now it seems we can add dog bites to the list.
A five-year analysis of dog bites in Kenya shows the canine is more likely to sink his teeth into your flesh between October and December.
The study showed 44 per cent of all dog bite incidents occurred during the short rainy season.
“The study found that dog‐bite incidence was lower during the dry and hot season; conversely, the incidence was higher during the short rainy season (October–December),” says veterinarian Dr Peris Kung’u, in a study published in the Vet Record Journal.
Kung’u analysed 3,182 dog bite cases in Kitui county between 2017 and 2021.
Dog bites are an important public health risk in Kenya because they spread nearly all cases of rabies in the country, killing about 523 people every year.
They also cause physical and psychological injuries in people, which include deformity, long‐term scarring, open fractures, bacterial infections, nerve and tendon laceration, tissue loss, and post‐traumatic stress disorder.
“In terms of the monthly dog‐bite distribution, slightly higher frequencies were observed in November and December,” Kung’u said.
David Brodbelt, a veterinarian from UK’s Royal Veterinary College Hatfield, also contributed to the study.
Most of the cases that Kung’u and Brodbelt analysed are from hospitals’ medical records and therefore excluded dog‐bite cases that did not require medical attention.
“This would suggest that the actual dog‐bite incidence would be greater,” the two said. “The increasing trend of dog‐bite incidence highlights the inadequacies of the dog control policies (under the rabies control act) in Kenya.”
Kung'u, who conceptualised and carried out the study, also theorised why dogs in Kenya bite more in the rainy season.
“This could be due to dogs being more aggressive during this period,” she said.
A similar study in Nigeria reported an increase in dog‐bite cases during the dog breeding season, which corresponds to the short rainy season (October–March).
A similar trend has also been documented in India. A 2015 Indian study observed that the free-ranging dogs in West Bengal have a clear mating season, which coincides with the wet season.
The Indian study, “When Love Is in the Air: Understanding Why Dogs Tend to Mate when It Rains,” published in Plos One journal in 2015, noted that mating dogs are aggressive and more likely to bite.
It noted that while reproduction among pet dogs is not seasonal, free-ranging dogs seem to show definite seasonality of reproduction, mating during the wet season.
Dogs’ primal instincts are at their sharpest during the mating season and often lead to behavioural changes. They are more likely to attack when provoked at this time.
The Kenyan study –titled “A review of human dog-bite injuries in Kitui South subcounty, Kenya (2017-2021)” – also noted most bites were from stray dogs with no owners.
“Only 33 per cent of dogs implicated in the bites were known to have owners, with 60 per cent of dogs of unknown ownership status,” Kung’u said.
She added, “The promotion of responsible dog ownership, including improved socialising and reduced free‐roaming dogs, could help contribute to decreased dog‐bite cases.”
The authors also found that most bites (36 per cent) were on the limbs (hands and legs), which can be explained by the proximity of the dog to the limbs, especially the legs. Moreover, the limbs tend to be used as a defence during an attack.
The Kenyan study also noted that children under 15 years were at higher risk of being bitten by a dog compared to older people.
That is probably because children are more likely to engage in behaviours that provoke aggression from a dog and, due to their smaller stature, may be less threatening to dogs.
“The non‐threatening stature of a child and lack of recognition of an aggressive dog increased the risk of dog bites in children,” Kung’u said.
The authors hope their findings can help strengthen dog control policies, such as dog population management by advocating for responsible dog ownership.