Fort Worth, Texas,
15:43 PM

Dog Bites and Kids: Children 5 to 9 Most Likely to be Injured

Bites Happen More Often From Dogs Your Child Knows

A 4-year-old girl was attacked by the family dog in Farmersville Texas, on Sunday, June 18. The little girl was wrestling with her siblings and when she got out of the pool the dog bit her. She was taken to a Dallas hospital with puncture wounds to the rib cage and back. 

The dog, a pitbull, was impounded. Later in the day and less than a mile away, The Dallas Morning News reports a 5-year-old boy was attacked by a neighbor's pit bull.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, bites occur more often from animals that children are familiar with than wild animals.

Of the 800,000 ED visits annually, 44 percent involve children under the age of 14. The injury rate is highest for children 5 to 9 years of age and the injury rates decrease the older the child.

Last year, Cook Children' Trauma registry reported 57 dog bites. The most occurred during July with 12. 

In May 2017, 4 children were seen for dog bites and another two were treated for cat bites by Infectious Diseases at Cook Children's. This month, 7 kids have been treated for dog bites and one for a cat bite. All of those children followed Cook Children's rabies protocol.

"If the child gets bitten by a dog, or any other animal, parents should take their child to the Cook Children's Emergency Department or the emergency room in their area," said Kate Polentas, clinical coordinator for Infectious Diseases at Cook Children's. "At Cook Children's, we will evaluate the child and treat the wound with antibiotics. The child will also receive the first dose of the rabies vaccine."

At that point, Cook Children's contacts animal control about the dog bite. Stray animals will then be quarantined and evaluated for rabies.

“It's really important for families to know that if it's a family dog, they need to speak up," Polentas said. "Families are afraid if they report the family dog bit their child, the dog will be put to sleep. The dog would actually be placed in quarantine for 10 days to monitor it’s health status. If the dog remains healthy throughout it’s quarantine, then the child can avoid receiving the remaining vaccine series. It's important to know the status and history of the dog.”

Daniel Guzman, M.D., a doctor in the Emergency Department at Cook Children's, says most dogs never bite people, but under the right circumstances any dog is capable of inflicting harm. In a presentation he does on dog bites, Dr. Guzman lists the following breeds as examples of less aggressive or family dogs:

  • Boxer
  • Dalmation
  • Labrador Retriever
  • English Setter
  • Golden Retriever
  • Irish Setter
  • Spaniels
  • English Springer

Dr. Guzman gives these tips on dog bite prevention:

  • Don't disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
  • Don't pet a dog without allowing it to sniff you first.
  • Avoid humanizing dog (sleep on furniture, beg for food).
  • Both little and dogs and big dogs can be great pets. But regardless of the size, they can also bite your child and do harm.
  • Avoid treating dog as a child. 
  • Do not play aggressive games with your pet.
  • Properly socialize and train dog entering household.
  • Immediately seek professional help if dog shows aggressive behavior.
  • Consult with a professional on dog breeds.
  • Avoid dogs with history of aggression.
  • Be sensitive to cues given by children (fear).
  • Never leave infants/children alone with any dog.
  • Spay/neuter all dogs (frequently reduces aggression and pet population).
  • Do not hug and kiss dogs. Be careful about getting face to face with pet.

While children need to put these rules into practice, adult supervision around all animals is also a key component to protecting your kids from animal bites.

Kat Davitt, a Child Life specialist at Cook Children’s and the handler for Chanel, one of the professionally trained therapy dogs in Cook Children’s Sit … Stay … PLAY program, says having a pet can be rewarding, but families should take the necesary precuations before owning one.

“There’s so much to think about before you bring a pet home,” Davitt said. “You know your family’s lifestyle and you know your children. Think about the temperament of your family and your pet. If you have really active lifestyle, you may want a dog that enjoys the outdoors or can run with you. If you have a busy lifestyle or away from home a lot, you may want a dog or a cat that may not want as much attention .”

Click here for advice from Clear the Shelters on finding the right dog for your lifestyle.

"Owning a pet teaches children responsibility and that first pet is a special friend, a child will never forget," Davitt said. "But, we also have to take precautions to teach children not only love for their animals, but how to respect them and care for them properly.”

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