Most serious cases involve children.

They're called man's best friend, but dogs also have the potential to be dangerous. Cox Hospital has seen an alarming rise in serious dog bites this year - most of them involving children.

It's not unusual for the Cox South Emergency Room to treat dog bites, but doctors say they've seen an increase in life threatening dog attacks. More children have been admitted to the hospital than usual, and some were even placed in critical condition.

Here's a look at the numbers:

* The Cox South emergency room has treated 61 dogs bites this year

* In the last 5 years, only 2.5% of dog bite cases were serious enough to admit a patient.

* This year that number has shot up to 13%

* A majority of those patients were between the ages of 5 and 9

"What we've seen recently are actually attacks. So these aren't bites, you know, leave me alone, or you're in my area, you're in my yard - these are actually dogs that have actually went after children," explained Jason Martin with Cox Health Trauma Services. "These aren't just defensive bites, these are what we consider attack."

Martin says it's important for parents to warn children about the dangers of dogs. He recommends following the below guidelines:


* Play with a dog while they're eating or sleeping

* Run and scream when a dog is near

* Tease dogs behind a fence, or on a chain


* Ask dog owner before petting dog

* Approach the dog slowly and let it sniff your closed hand

"Any dog can potentially be dangerous based on the situation. We have some pretty severe dog bites caused by littler dogs, especially if you're dealing with small kids. So regardless of what breed a dogs is, you should always approach that dog in the same manner. If it's a strange dog you shouldn't approach it period, you shouldn't tease it, you shouldn't make eye contact with it," said Martin.

If a dog chases you, experts say try not to run. They say it's best to stand still and look straight at the ground. That's because dogs see eye contact as a sign of aggression.

Experts say if a dog bite breaks the skin, it's best to get it checked out by a doctor.

Cox Health does offer a class to help new parents introduce a baby into a home with a dog. That information can be found here.