Preventing Dog Bites in Children: 3 Things to Know

Preventing Dog Bites Children - Nehora Law Firm

Dog bite injuries are the most common type of personal injuries among children. They occur more frequently than bike accidents and playground injuries; but preventing dog bites in children can be done.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), children are the most common victims of dog bites and are more likely to suffer severe injuries. More than 50% of victims are children and 26% of these children require emergency care. The child is most likely to be attacked at home or at a friend or relative's home.

Why Do Dogs Bite Children?

Although domesticated dogs are known to be one of the friendliest pets, they are equally prone to aggressive and vicious behavior. While there may be many reasons for a dog to bite, it usually depends on the situation. Most dogs bite when they are angry or scared. Therefore, provoking or frightening the dog can cause an aggressive reaction.

Some dogs are also naturally aggressive due to their breed or training. Pitbulls may act more aggressive than other types of dogs. They are responsible for most of the attacks that result in severe or fatal consequences.

The wrong training, or lack of training, can also make a dog aggressive. Chaining the dog up and restricting the dog's socialization from a young age can make the dog naturally inclined towards aggression.

Possible Injuries and Infections of Dog Bites

Depending on the force of a dog’s bite, the injury can vary in severity. Nevertheless, a child must be rushed to the emergency room. The doctor can examine the extent of the damage and also check for infection. The following are some common infections and diseases to look out for after a dog bites children:

--- 1. Rabies is a serious infection that may result in fatal consequences. Contracting rabies from a dog in the United States is rare, but possible. The virus affects the brain and very quickly becomes life threatening.

--- 2. Pasteurella is a bacteria that is commonly found in most dog bite wounds. It can cause a painful red infection at the site of the wound or result in a serious disease.

--- 3. Tetanus is a dangerous toxin produced by a type of bacteria. Deep wound injuries are prone to tetanus. It can cause paralysis.

Some common injuries resulting from dog bites include:

  • Scarring

The most common type of injury is scarring. When a dog bites children, it usually leaves puncture wounds which can cause scarring at the surface level. More forceful bites might cause deeper wounds and affect the muscle, bones or nerves.

Scarring may also require expensive reconstructive surgery. This is because most dogs attack the neck or face. Smaller children, especially, are prone to dog bite injuries on their face as they tend to crawl or play on the ground. These scars can be traumatizing and permanent.

  • Fractures

A particularly forceful bite can cause broken bones. This may result in a closed or open fracture. The compressive forces of the bite can not only crush the bones but can also create puncture wounds which allow bacteria to infect the bones.

  • Infections

Infections occur when bacteria from the dog’s mouth can contaminate the wound. These can have mild consequences of discomfort to life-threatening complications.

Those who have low immunity (due to diabetes or HIV) tend to contract infections. Any delay in treatment can also increase the risk of infection.

  • PTSD

Finally, psychological stress is the most common injury caused by dog bites. Such experiences can cause post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children. They may tend to be emotionally withdrawn after the incident. It can also form a crippling fear of dogs.

Although such injuries are not physical, they are equally damaging. When a dog bites children, they may experience nightmares and anxiety from the incident. This is because their sense of security is threatened. Counseling and therapy can usually help with the emotional damages from such dog attacks.

What Can You Do to Avoid Dog Bites in Children?

Although most dog bite incidents involve children, these incidents are completely preventable. It may not be possible to completely remove the risk of a dog bite. However, there are some preventive measures that can reduce its risk.

As a parent, you can educate your children about these measures to prevent the risk of attacks. To avoid dog bites in children, teach them to avoid:

  • Petting an Unknown Dog: Children must approach unknown dogs carefully and under the parent’s supervision. It is also a good idea for the child to ask the owner or a parent before petting the dog.
  • Provoking or Harassing a Dog: Young children tend to tease dogs by poking or kicking them. This can make them aggressive. Other forms of threatening such as growling will also prompt an aggressive response.
  • Yelling or Running When a Dog Turns Aggressive: Sudden movements or sounds can startle or anger the dog. This is usually what escalates the situation and results in a dog bite.
  • Pulling a Dog’s Ears or Tail: Another common trigger is to pull the dog’s ears or tail.
  • Disturb the Dog: When a dog is sleeping, eating or taking care of her puppies, the dog is occupied in the activity. Disturbing the dog during these times will trigger the dog into viciousness.

It is also useful for children to learn bodily responses to a possible dog attack. Teach them to “stand like a tree” or stand motionless if a dog growls or threatens them. They must also avoid direct eye contact.

While most children (and adults) instinctively run or fight when attacked, the best posture to assume is one of defense. Teach children to curl up into a ball with their head tucked and hands protecting the ears and neck.

If your child is a victim of a dog bite, ensure you rush the child for medical treatment. Any delay may result in serious and irreparable consequences. Once the child’s wound is medically attended to, seek professional legal help from an attorney. A dog bite attorney can help you recover monetary relief for economic damages as well as the psychological stress your child has to endure.

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