Each year, more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs, and of the 800,000 Americans who receive medical attention for dog bites, at least half are children.
Children are, by far, the most common victims of dog bites and are far more likely to be severely injured particularly in the head and neck areas. Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs, like the family dog or a dog-well known to the family. Remember, as most dog bites involve familiar animals, prevention starts in your home.
Preventing Dog Bites:
- Almost 1 in 5 people bitten by dogs require medical attention. For children, the injuries are more likely to be serious since the majority of injuries occur in the head, face or neck. Parents should be aware of some simple steps that can prevent dog bites.
- Never leave a small child and a dog alone together, no matter if it is the family dog, a dog that is known to you, or a dog that you have been assured is well behaved. Any dog can bite.
- Do not allow your child to play aggressive games with a dog, such as tug-of-war or wrestling, as this can lead to bites.
- Teach your child to ask a dog owner for permission before petting any dog.
- Let a dog sniff you or your child before petting, and stay away from the face or tail. Pet the dog gently, and avoid eye contact, particularly at first.
- Never bother a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies. Dogs in these situations are more likely to respond aggressively, even with a person who is familiar to them.
- Teach your child to move calmly and slowly around dogs.
- Teach your child that if a dog is behaving in a threatening manner—for example, growling and barking—to remain calm, avoid eye contact with the dog, and back away slowly until the dog loses interest and leaves.
- If you or your child is knocked over by a dog, curl up in a ball and protect the eyes and face with arms and fists.
Treatment for Dog Bites:
If a dog bites your child, follow these steps:
- Request proof of rabies vaccination from the dog’s owner, get the dog owner’s name and contact information, and ask for the name and telephone number of a veterinarian who is familiar with the dog’s vaccination records and history.
- Immediately wash out the wound with soap and water.
- Call your pediatrician because the bite could require antibiotics, a tetanus shot, and/or rabies shots. The doctor can also help you report the incident to your local police department.
- If your child is severely bitten, call 9-1-1 or bring your child to an emergency department for treatment.
- Be prepared to tell the emergency department doctor about your child’s tetanus vaccination status, the dog’s vaccine status (or offer contact information for the dog’s veterinarian), the dog’s owner, and if you know that the dog has bitten before.
- Follow your pediatrician’s instructions to ensure proper healing.