Most kids don't think a cuddly dog would ever hurt them, but the fact is about 4.7 million dog bites occur every year in the United States — and more than half of kids bitten are under age 14. Dog bites can be much more than an innocent little nip, and some require hospitalization or even surgery.
Teaching kids a few basic dog manners, though, will let them — and dogs — enjoy safer encounters.
Any breed of dog might bite. And just because a dog is small or seems friendly doesn't mean it can't do some damage. Even the nicest, most well-trained family dog may snap if it's startled, scared, threatened, agitated, angry, or hungry.
No matter how well you think you know the dog, always supervise your kids around someone else's pet. To reduce the risk of bites, teach kids these safety guidelines:
A lot of the responsibility for preventing dog bites falls on the owner's shoulders. Before getting a dog, talk to a professional (such as a veterinarian or reputable breeder or pet shelter) to discuss what type of dog or breed is best for your household. Ask questions about the dog's temperament and health. A dog with a history of aggression is not suitable for a household with kids.
If your family has a dog, make sure it gets all required immunizations and regular vet checkups. Also, have it spayed or neutered. Consider taking your dog to obedience school to make it more social and obedient, and thus less likely to bite someone.
When you take your dog out in public, always keep it on a leash so you can be in control if its behavior gets out of hand. If you have kids, closely supervise them when they're around the dog and never leave an infant or toddler alone with your pet.
Even if you don't own a dog, make sure that your kids understand some "nevers" about being around dogs:
If your child is bitten by a dog, contact your doctor, particularly if the dog is not yours. Some dog bites need to be treated in an emergency department. The force of a dog's bite can actually result in a fracture (broken bone). Some dog bites can seem minor on the surface but can cause deeper injuries to muscle, bone, nerves and tendons.
While rare, rabies and other kinds of infections from dogs like bacterial infections can occur and should be treated as quickly as possible. Be sure to ask your doctor if your child needs antibiotics to prevent a dog bite from becoming infected. Not all cuts (lacerations) due to dog bites are stitched because this type of repair can increase the risk of infection. Your doctor will decide which lacerations should be stitched.
Try to have the following information available to help the doctor determine the risk of infection and what kind of treatment, if any, your child needs:
|The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) The HSUS educates the public about the humane treatment of all animals, and how to find and care for different kinds of pets.|
|The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) The ASPCA provides education about the humane treatment of animals (including finding and caring for a pet) and pet adoption opportunities nationwide.|
|American Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.|
|How to Stay Safe Around Animals Do you love animals? Lots of kids do. Find out how to stay safe around them in this article for kids.|
|Selecting Safe Pets Selecting the right pet is a serious decision that your family should make together. Before you choose a pet, check out these tips and suggestions.|
|Cat Scratch Disease Cat scratch disease is an infection that causes swelling of the lymph nodes after an animal scratch. Learn about signs and symptoms, prevention, treatment, and more.|
|Infections That Pets Carry Kids can benefit from the companionship, affection, and relationships they share with pets. But it's important to know how to protect your family from infections carried by pets and other animals.|
|Bites and Scratches Animal bites and scratches, even minor ones, can become infected and spread bacteria to other parts of the body, regardless of whether the animal is a family pet or a wild animal.|
|Animal Bites Instruction Sheet Animal bites and scratches that break the skin can cause infection. Rarely, animal bites can cause rabies, a dangerous, life-threatening disease.|
|Are Certain Pets Better Than Others, Especially for Young Kids? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Pets and Your Health Like people, pets can carry infections - and some of these can be transmitted to people. Find out how you and your pet can stay infection free.|
|Rabies Rabies is a serious infection of the nervous system that is caused by a virus. Rabies is usually transmitted by a bite from an infected animal.|
|Dogs and Preventing Dog Bites Are you a little afraid of dogs? Some kids are, so find out how you can make friends with dogs and avoid dog bites.|
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