Dog Bites In Children: How To Prevent Them And What To Do After A Bite

Dog Bites In Children

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A dog is a man’s best friend, but it can bite. It is shocking to know that 50% of children in the US have sustained dog bites at least once (1). Around 400,000 children are bitten by dogs every year, and a majority of them are harmed by the dogs they know.

Dog bites in children are common because they may try to get close with the animal and do not know how to keep themselves away from an aggressive or confused dog.

You need to train your child on how to be careful while dealing with dogs, and also learn what to do if the kid is bitten by a dog. MomJunction helps you do that. Read on.

[ Read: Rabies Symptoms In Children ]

Why Do Dogs Bite?

Dogs bite as a reaction to something (2):

  • If they find themselves in a stressful situation
  • To defend themselves
  • If they are scared, startled, or feel threatened
  • To protect something, which is important to them, like puppies, food or a toy
  • When they are sick and want to be left alone
  • If they are overly excited while playing

Therefore, teach your child to understand the mood of the dog before going near or playing with it. Also, you need to take some other measures to prevent dog bites.

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How To Prevent Dog Bites?

Here are some ways you can do that:

  1. Ask your kid to avoid a dog they don’t know or the one wandering on the street. Consider alerting an animal control squad.
  1. If the dog owner is around a dog, always ask them before you pat or touch the dog, even if it is familiar.
  1. Tell your kid to quietly and confidently walk away if met with an aggressive dog.
  1. If a dog is after the child, then they should stand still and then take a defensive position.
  1. If attacked by a dog, the child should cover their head and neck with the arms and curl into a ball.
  1. Tell your kid not to yell, run or hit the dog.
  1. When a dog is resting in its crate, it shouldn’t be bothered.
  1. Keep your pet dog around your family. Isolating the dog may encourage bad temperament in it.
  1. Help children understand the dog’s behavior. Make them realize that dogs, too, have likes and dislikes, just like they do.
  1. The kid should not force the dog to play, and let it go if it is not interested.
  1. Tell the child never to tease dogs or pull its ears and tail.
  1. Report stray dogs or dogs that frequently run loose in the neighbourhood.
  1. Don’t handover pet responsibilities to the kids too early in their life or immediately after you bring the animal into your family. Initiate them slowly, and supervise the activities.
  1. Help the child read the dogs’ body language:
  • If it yawns, puts ears back or raises a paw, it means the dog is worried about something.
  • When a dog places its tail under its belly or between the legs, lies down with a leg up or stares at you with a stiffened body, it must be feeling threatened.
  • And if the dog growls or snaps, it is in a bad mood and wants to be left alone.

When you are teaching children about dog bite prevention and how to be safe, discuss animals and the need to treat them with respect and love. If you are getting a pet home, put some dos and don’ts in place, and be mindful of how young children in the family interact with it.

In spite of all your preventive measures, you may not be able to stop a vagarious dog from biting the child.

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[ Read: Immunization Schedule For Kids ]

What To Do After A Dog Bite?

In the case of a dog biting the child, here is what you can do:

  • If you know the owner of the dog, ask them if the dog has been given important vaccinations, including that for rabies.
  • Know if the dog was provoked to bite, or the action was unprovoked.
  • Give first aid to your child, before taking them to a doctor.

First aid for dog bites:

In younger children, dogs mostly attack their head, neck and face, which are easily reachable. Give first aid based on how severe the wound is:

  1. Minor wounds: Wash the wound carefully with water and soap. Apply some antibiotic cream to avoid any infection. Put a bandage on it (3).
  1. Deep wounds: If the dog has bitten on the skin causing perforation and loss of blood, apply pressure with a clean, dry cloth to stop the bleeding. Visit a doctor immediately.

It is good to take your child to a doctor as soon as possible after a dog bite.

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When Should You Visit The Doctor?

See the doctor if:

  • Your kid has redness, swelling, pain or irritation.
  • You don’t know about the dog.
  • The wound is in your child’s face or neck.
  • The wound looks deep.
  • The skin is punctured, posing a danger of bacterial infection.
  • You are unable to stop bleeding after applying pressure for about ten minutes.

The doctor will ask you questions about the dog before they begin treatment.

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What Is The Treatment For Dog Bites?

The treatment will most likely include the below steps:

  • Sponge the area to clean away any dust or dirt.
  • Wash the cavity copiously with clean water.
  • Culture wounds if they are infected.
  • Remove devitalized tissue.
  • Keep the punctured wounds open.
  • Wounds on the hands and feet are managed in consultation with a surgeon.

The doctor will also decide whether or not to give tetanus injection and rabies vaccine to your child.

We tell you about tetanus and rabies in the following sections. Read on.

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Tetanus Shot After A Dog Bite

The tetanus infection is caused by the Clostridium Tetani bacteria. It results in stiffness of jaw, neck or abdominal muscles, and painful body spasms. It is a rare but harmful disease.

One can prevent tetanus by taking tetanus shots. Your child might need a tetanus shot if (6):

  • They have never taken the primary vaccination.
  • The last shot was given more than five years ago.

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[ Read: Common Bacterial And Fungal Infections In Children ]

What Is Rabies?

Rabies is a zoonotic disease, transmitted to humans from animals. Domestic dogs are the most common carriers of the rabies virus.

The disease is almost always fatal in humans. It begins with no symptoms, but gradually causes fatigue, a headache, pain and irritability. It then leads to severe symptoms such as seizures, hallucinations, and paralysis.

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When To Get a Rabies Injection?

A preventive rabies vaccine is given to those who are likely to be exposed to the disease, and your child may not fall into this category unless you are travelling to an international destination.

A post-exposure rabies vaccine is given if:

  • The child has not received the injection previously.
  • The doctor finds it necessary to give it.
  • You do not know anything about the dog that bit the child (here, too, the doctor will examine the wound before giving the injection).

The post-exposure vaccine has four doses — one dose given immediately after the bite, and the remaining on the third, seventh and 14th days.

A rabies immunoglobulin shot is also given along with the first dose (7).

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What To Do If The Family Dog Bites?

Follow the procedure mentioned in the treatment section. In addition to that, analyze the reasons as to why the dog has bit the child.

It happened accidentally:

  • The dog must have bitten unintentionally while playing with the kid. It may not be doing it again.
  • Do not try to discipline your dog long after the incident because it cannot associate getting disciplined to something it has done in the past.
  • If your dog remembers biting you, it may show signs of submission like bringing ears, tail and head down.
  • Practice no talk, no touch and no eye contact for a while and stay calm.

[ Read: Mosquito Bites Remedies For Children ]

The dog bit intentionally:

  • If your dog is nipping without any apparent reason, you should consult a veterinarian as it may be due to some pain or hidden injury.
  • If there are no medical causes, then look for reasons that are agitating the dog.
  • Make sure it is not a reaction to some irritation being caused by your child.
  • Work with your dog and a professional trainer, if needed, to eliminate aggression by establishing rules, boundaries and limitations for the dog.
  • While doing this, keep your child away from the dog.

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Dog bites can cause both physical and emotional damage. The emotional damage caused by a dog bite can last for a lifetime, depending on the severity of the bite and shock.

Make sure that the child is not having an infection or any other problem while the physical injury is healing. At the same time, help them come out of mental trauma by talking to them, and providing them solace.

Do you have something to say on dog bites? Share your experience with us in the comment box below.

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MA English Pursuing Child Nutrition and Cooking from Stanford UniversitySudipta is an English Major from the University of Hyderabad. Has considerable medical research writing experience, but also enjoys creative writing and the arts. Her writings aim to make highly scientific/ health material easy to understand for a common reader.She is also a National Novel Writing Month awardee. Sudipta loves to hit the roads to find stories and motivation to fill up her canvases and the pages of her diary.
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