Every year, almost 5 million Americans are bit by dogs. Over 800,000 of these individuals suffer injuries that require medical treatment and 44% of those that require treatment are younger than 14 years of age. Since more than half of the reported attacks are by dogs owned by the family or neighbor of the victim and the most common victims are children, it’s important for parents to understand not only how to prevent attacks, but treat them should they occur.
Preventing Dog Bites
Teach children basic safety around dogs and review regularly:
Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
Do not run from a dog and scream.
Remain motionless (e.g., “be still like a tree”) when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still (e.g., “be still like a log”).
Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior to an adult.
Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
Do not disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.
The dog breeds most often associated with attacks include pit bull breeds, german shepards, chows, malamutes, Rottweilers, huskies and wolf hybrids.
If your child is bitten by a dog, seek medical attention immediately. Risk of infection to the wound site is a reported in up to 20% of all dog bite wounds. This is why medical attention is so important.
Your doctor or emergency room will irrigate the wound to reduce the risk of infection. They will want to know if your child’s tetanus shots are up to date so bring your child’s immunization records with you. Depending on the size and severity of the wounds, consultation with a plastic surgeon is likely so that the risk of permanent scarring can be assessed and reduced.
Lastly, discharge instructions will ask the parents to be on the lookout for fever, chills, or severe or rapidly spreading cellulitis which would signal the onset of an infection at the wound site which may necessitate additional hospitalization.