True, dogs’ barks are usually worse than their bites. But when a dog bite does happen, it can be much more harmful. Children are the most vulnerable because dogs usually attack the face, sometimes causing severe injuries and leaving children traumatized.
“Dog bites are a very real threat and account for more than 40,000 facial attacks per year,” said Dr. Laurence Z. Rosenberg, a board certified plastic surgeon who practices at Tallahassee’s Southeastern Plastic Surgery.
“Children are more likely to be attacked in the hands, lips, nose and cheeks because they are closer to the ground and tend to get in the dog’s face.”
Most dogs are naturally calm, but others are predisposed to viciousness and might attack if they are raised to be cautious of strangers. Some breeds are more aggressive and territorial by nature.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons offers tips that parents can teach their children. Always ask a dog owner for permission before petting any dog and don’t play with a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first. Never approach an unfamiliar dog. Be “still like a tree” when an unfamiliar dog approaches. If a dog knocks you over, roll into a ball and stay still. Don’t look a dog right in the eye, and don’t disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
If you or your child is bitten, stop the bleeding, clean the wound with soap and water as thoroughly as possible and seek immediate medical attention. Infections can occur but bites from humans or cats are more likely to cause infections than dog bites.