The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that every year, 800,000 Americans—half of them children—seek medical attention for a dog bite. Of those injured, 386,000 require treatment in an emergency room and about 16 die from their injuries. Dog bite rates are highest for children between 5 and 9 years old.
Dog bites are very scary for children and can cause severe pain, scarring, and emotional trauma that may last a lifetime. If a dog attacks your child, following the steps listed below will help you deal with the situation to achieve the best possible outcome.
- Call 911 if your child’s injuries are severe.
- Report the bite to police or animal control. It is important to document the dog bite in case the dog has bitten others or in the past or is extremely dangerous.
- Determine who owns the dog so that you can find out if the dog has been properly immunized against rabies and other infections. Write down a description of the dog if you cannot determine who the owner is.
- Report the bite to the local health department. This is important because they will follow up and make sure the dog does not have rabies—a fatal infection that is passed on to a dog bite victim in the dog’s saliva.
- Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water to prevent infection.
- Contact your doctor right away for medical advice. Some dog bites are more serious than they look and may require emergency room treatment. Dogs have strong jaws that can cause fractures and other damage.
- Request a plastic surgeon if the emergency room doctor recommends stitches on or around the face. Plastic surgeons may be able to reduce the appearance of scars. Note, however, that doctors do not always stitch up dog bites because they are extremely prone to infection.
- Ask your doctor about the need for antibiotics. Dog bites are infected easily and may require oral or topical antibiotics.
- Talk to your doctor about trauma counseling if your child seems fearful, has nightmares, or seems upset in the days after the dog bite.
Dog bites are a health problem that can generally be prevented by educating children about how to behave safely around dogs. However, if the worst happens and your child is injured by a dog, it is very important to know how to respond.
The lawyers at Russell & Lazarus are committed to promoting dog bite safety for both children and adults. If a dog has injured you or someone you love, contact a Riverside dog bite attorney toll free at (949) 851-0222 for a free consultation. You can also download a free copy of their book The Nuts and Bolts of Litigating a Personal Injury Claim for more information.