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. Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday
activities and while interacting with familiar dogs. 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. 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
- 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
- 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
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
- If your child is severely, 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.