Dogs and children have a few things in common, one of which being their unpredictability. No matter how well behaved a child or pet may be, their actions cannot always be predicted. For that reason, children and dogs should always be supervised when interacting with each other – even if they are around one another often. It’s a necessary precaution to prevent injury. Unfortunately, dog bites are one of the leading causes of non-fatal emergency room visits in children.
What makes children vulnerable to dog bites?
There are a few reasons kids tend to be more vulnerable to dog attacks than adults, including:
- Children are curious and therefore more likely to approach dogs, regardless of familiarity.
- Young children can play in a way that dogs may misinterpret as aggressive.
- Children have not yet learned to recognize aggressive body language in dogs (raised fur, bearing their teeth, licking their lips, and rigid body posture) so they aren’t usually aware of the need to back away from an animal like an adult might.
- Children who approach puppies can be bitten because of the mother’s natural instinct to protect their young.
- Children are smaller than adults, which makes fending off dog attacks more difficult.
What are the most common injuries from dog bites in children?
- Injuries to the face, lips and cheek area are most common and often require facial reconstructive surgery.
- Nerve damage to bitten arms or legs is also common. Physical therapy may be necessary as a result.
- Fractures to the child’s bones may occur due to the strength of a dog’s jaws.
- Bacterial infections can occur if wounds are not properly treated.
- Fatalities are rare, but possible.
What is the emotional impact of a dog bite attack?
Beyond physical injuries, long-term emotional impacts related to dog attacks are common, such as:
- Children can develop a lasting fear of dogs.
- Anxiety disorders can develop from traumatic experiences.
- Parents or caregivers may notice that a child experiences nightmares, separation anxiety and other signs of PTSD following a dog attack.
Therapy is a great resource for dealing with the emotional aftermath of a dog bite, and physical injuries should be treated by medical professionals right away.
Ultimately, preventing dog attacks can be as simple as never allowing a child alone with a dog. Always stay within arms’ reach distance to your child and any dog they may be around. Even in instances where a dog is typically used to the child, there have been reports of dogs attacking.