According to the AKC, nearly 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States. And every year, more than 800,000 people seek medical care for dog bites, and 50% of those are children. It's easy to understand why children are the most common victims. Here's what you need to know about dog bite prevention for children and what to do should your child get bitten:
Reasons Dogs Bite
Any dog can bite. Even the smallest, cutest, or gentlest dog can have a bad day, become frightened or agitated, or not be feeling well—all reasons dogs will bite. And kids are more likely to get bitten because they don't understand that not all dogs want to play or be cuddled.
Teach Your Children
Your child should never approach a strange dog and should always ask the owner for permission to pet a dog. They should also never try to pet a dog through a car window or behind a fence as the animal may be protective. Teach your children the following signs and body language that signal a dog may be ready to bite:
- Stiff stance, tail straight up or between the legs
- Bared teeth, growling
- Hair on back of neck standing up
- Crouching with head lowered
- Yawning or licking the lips
Tell your child If a dog approaches showing any of these signs of fear or aggression to stand still and don't make eye contact. The dog will likely lose interest and then the child can slowly back away. If the child falls down, he or she should curl into a ball and protect their eyes and ears with their hands and arms.
Treating a Bite Wound
For any dog bite that punctures the skin, it's important to contact animal control and if possible ensure that the dog is current on its rabies vaccination. If the dog's rabies vaccination status is not current or is unknown, rabies prophylaxis may be required to prevent this fatal disease. If there is no puncture and no bruising, you can wash the area and watch for any further signs of trauma. If there is a puncture, you should see your doctor or urgent care physician, as bite wounds can easily become infected. If profuse bleeding is present, hold a cold towel or compress against the wound to stop the bleeding and seek help immediately. The doctor will examine the wound to determine the best treatment. Medical personnel will thoroughly clean and debride the wound. For deep or long wounds, sutures may be necessary. However, closing the wound may also increase the chances of infection, so the doctor will weigh the decision to suture and have minimal scarring, or leave the wound open, to reduce infection. Your doctor will also determine whether your child is up-to-date on his or her tetanus shot and vaccinate if necessary. Your doctor may recommend or prescribe appropriate pain medications if necessary.
Dog bites can be scary for you and your child. A little bit of knowledge can help your child avoid a painful bite, but if a bite occurs, it's good to know that expert help is available at your nearest urgent care facility.
Contact a medical office like Emergency Care Dynamics for more information and assistance.