Of the 4.7 million annual dog bites, nearly 800,000 require a hospital visit and 33,000 require reconstructive surgery. With people and dogs both participating more in outside activities, the risk of dog bites reaches its peak during the warm weather months.
Unfortunately, 600,000 dog bite victims are children. According to well-known dog trainer Cesar Milan, most dog bites involving children are from dogs with whom the children are familiar. Young children, particularly ones under the age of five, often do not understand personal space. According Milan’s site cesarsway.com, “The combination of an overprotective dog and a child who does not understand boundaries can lead to a big problem.” A dog may bite if it is provoked by a child who, for example, pulls its tail, fur, or ears. If a child gets too close to a dog and startles it, the dog may turn and bite. If a dog views a child as prey because he or she is running, this may also provoke an attack. Dogs can also bite because they are injured, in pain, or sick.
Most bites to children involve their head, neck, and face because of the proximity of a child’s face to a dog’s mouth. These injuries sometimes require extensive surgery and reconstructive procedures. Dr. Bradon J. Wilhelmi, Chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Louisville Department of Surgery notes that “[r]econstructive surgeons see firsthand how devastating these attacks are. With training, appropriate dog control and education, however, the suffering caused by dog bites can be prevented.”
“Dog bite attacks can lead to severe lacerations, infections and permanent scarring,” Wilhelmi said. “If bitten, you should get to a trauma center immediately so that the wound can be cleaned and assessed. It is imperative that proper medical care is provided as soon as possible after an attack.”
Cats Bite & Scratch, Too
While much publicity is given to dog bites, cat bites and scratches are almost non-existent in the news. However, cats account for about 15% of animal bites treated each year in the emergency room, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Unlike dog bites, most cat bites that require treatment are from cats who are unknown to the victim. Cat bites also become infected more frequently than dog bites, leading to longer treatment periods. According to Pet Pro News, stray, unknown female cats are the most common bite sources; adult women are the most frequent victims.
In addition to cat bites, bartonellosis, commonly known as “cat-scratch fever,” can be transmitted to humans from bites as well as scratches. Bartonellosis causes swollen lymph nodes, especially around the head, neck, and upper limbs. According to Cornell University’s Feline Health Center, other symptoms may involve fever, headache, sore muscles and joints, fatigue, and poor appetite. While most people generally recover with no lasting effects, it may take several months for the disease to go away completely. Some healthy cats are continuously or intermittently infected, although most treated illnesses are caused by kittens. Avoiding scratches and bites (not allowing children to play roughly with cats, not picking up a stray cat, etc.), controlling fleas, and keeping cats indoors all reduce the risk of cat-scratch disease.
Pet owners, parents, and others can learn more about reducing the risk of dog and pet bites at www.humanesociety.org.
If you or a loved one is bitten by a dog, cat, or other pet, seek medical attention immediately and then call me at (312) 357-8000. I can help you obtain the maximum financial compensation your injury demands from the pet owner’s insurer.
- Center for Disease Control
- Cornell University. Feline Health Center. www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/
- Milan, Cesar. www.cesarsway.com
- PetProNews.com. Cat bite prevention: it should get more attention.
- University of Louisville. U of L reconstructive surgeon provides prevention tips. www.louisville.edu
- Weiss, HB, Freidman DI, Coben JH. Incidence of dog bite injuries treated in emergency departments. JAMA. 1998;279:51-53.