Almost 5 million dog bites occur each year in the United States, and many of these bites occur to children. Children are more likely than adults to be bitten by dogs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which adds that the injuries children get from dog bites also tend to be more severe than the injuries adults receive.
Often children receive bites on the face, neck, hands or feet. These types of injuries can cause bleeding, infections, broken bones and scarring. They can also be traumatic for the child. Because dog bites can cause severe injuries to children, it can be helpful for parents to teach their children how to behave safely around dogs to prevent bites from occurring.
Take steps to prevent your children from being bitten
When you begin teaching a young child how to interact with dogs, focus on teaching the child how to pet the dog gently. You can also explain to your child that dogs have likes and dislikes.
Young children may not be able to understand a dog’s body language, so they should never be allowed to play with dogs unsupervised, even the family pet. Many dog bit instances occur at home with a dog the victim knows.
As your child gets older, you can teach him or her more specific ways to be safe around dogs. Some of these safe behaviors include:
- Always asking the owner’s permission before petting a dog
- Never trying to pet or play with an unknown dog that is not with an owner
- Not bothering dogs that are sleeping, eating or caring for puppies
- Never teasing dogs, pulling their ears or tail or trying to ride them
Older children can also benefit from being told what they should do if a dog goes after them. In general, they should try to stand as still as a tree and look at their feet until the dog loses interest. Yelling and running will usually only make the situation worse. If the child gets knocked over by the dog, he or she should roll into a ball and cover his or her head and neck.
What to do if a child is bitten
If your child is severely bitten by a dog, he or she may need to receive emergency treatment. However, it may be prudent for the injury to be examined by a doctor, even if it does not seem severe. Dog bites can easily become infected and may involve damage to muscle, nerves or tendons that may not be immediately obvious to you.
If possible, you should also try to exchange contact information with the dog’s owner and make sure that the dog is up to date on vaccines. If the animal is up to date on vaccines, your child may be able to avoid treatment for certain diseases, like rabies. You may also consider collecting the contact information of anyone who witnessed the incident and reporting the incident to your local animal control agency or police department.
In many instances, the dog’s owner is liable for injuries that the dog causes. Depending on your situation, it may be appropriate to seek justice. You may be able to receive compensation for your child’s medical expenses and other costs associated with the injury.