Dog Bite Injuries: More than Just a Scratch

Dog Bite InjuryDogs are man’s best friend. But when that friendship takes a turn that result can be a devastating dog bite.  The recent attack of a Portland girl by a large dog in Gresham last week is only one example.  Television station KATU reports that the four-year-old child arrived at Mount Hood Medical Center covered in blood and bruises.  Doctors had to stitch up both sides of the girl’s face, as well as her shoulder.  Her back was covered in both bite and scratch marks.  Family member witnesses say the dog came out of nowhere, chased the girl, and pinned her to the ground.  They saw a large piece of skin was ripped off of her face on both sides.

Prevalence and Severity of Dog  Bite Injuries

This girl’s story is not an isolated incident.  A five year review, available on PubMed, of the severity and management of dog bites showed alarming results.  Researchers reviewed the charts of all children under age sixteen sought dog bite treatment in two hospitals between 1998 and 2002.  Of the 287 cases reviewed, almost sixty percent of the children were bitten in the face.  The mean age of the children was seven years old.  Over half of the bites required sutures, and over a quarter of them were considered “severe,” which means they required more than ten sutures.  The children suffering the more severe bites tended to be the younger children in the study sample. One child even died.

The numbers from other research are not any more reassuring.  The Centers for Disease Control report that nearly 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year and half of those victims are children.  One-fifth of those bites is so severe it requires medical attention.  In 2012, more than 27,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery because of dog bite injuries.  In addition to being disfiguring or even deadly, these injuries can also be extremely expensive.  According to KTVZ, in 2012 State Farm spend $1.2 million on dog bite claims in Oregon alone.

None of this is to say that all dog bites are particularly vicious.  Like any injury, some are more serious than others.  That most dog bites do not result in serious injury does not mean that no dog bites result in serious injury.  The CDC provides some tips to teach children in hopes of preventing such a tragedy.

Tips For Children to Prevent a Dog Bite

  • Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Do not run from a dog or scream.
  • Remain motionless (e.g., “be still like a tree”) when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and be still.
  • Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
  • Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior to an adult.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
  • Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
  • If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.

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