What Should I Do if a Dog Bit My Child?

Child at Doctor OfficeIf a dog bit your child, there are several steps you should take right away to protect your child’s health and well-being and to preserve the right to compensation for his injuries. Of course, the first thing you should do is get him to a doctor or emergency room for professional medical attention.

Never Treat a Dog Bite Only at Home

Even a minor dog bite is a medical emergency because of the many adverse effects your child could experience as a result of these wounds. You should always take your child to an urgent care center, emergency room, or doctor’s office so that the medical professionals can:

Perform the initial trauma care that all dog bites need. Because a dog’s teeth can pierce deep into tissue, causing damage that you cannot see from the outside, the treatment team should evaluate things like internal bleeding and damages to muscles, blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, nerves, skin, and other organs. Your child might need surgery so that he does not lose the function of a body part. Plastic and reconstructive surgery can start in the emergency room to minimize disfiguring scars.

Dog bites are notoriously dirty wounds, so the professionals should clean and sanitize the injury to prevent infections.

Medical professionals should evaluate your child’s risk of exposure to rabies. Your child will need to undergo rabies shots if there is a possibility that the bite exposed him to rabies. You cannot wait to see if he develops symptoms (headache, weakness, fever, and general discomfort), because then it will be too late. We can only prevent this disease through immunization. Rabies shots include:

  • A human rabies immune globulin (HRIG), and
  • A post-exposure anti-rabies vaccination, and
  • A tetanus shot (unless your doctor determines that you have had a recent tetanus shot)

Tetanus shots. Even if there is no risk of rabies, your trauma team will evaluate whether your child needs a tetanus shot. People develop tetanus, also called lockjaw, from the Clostridium tetani bacteria getting deep into tissue from a puncture wound, such as a dog bite. Tetanus shots do not last forever, so you should tell the doctor how recently your child has a tetanus injection. He might need a booster shot.

Tetanus kills 10 to 20 percent of the people who contract it, so take your child to an emergency room immediately if he experiences any of these symptoms after a dog bite:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Muscle pain or spasms
  • Clenching of his neck or jaw muscles
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing

Infections from dog bites. Your child could develop other infections from the bacteria in a dog’s mouth. These infections can cause permanent nerve damage, require that your child have his hands or feet amputated, or be fatal. Some of these infections include pasteurellosis (cat scratch fever, which both cats and dogs can carry) and cellulitis, which can become flesh-eating strep or methicillin-resistance Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Follow-up Care After the Initial Medical Treatment for a Dog Bite

After your child receives professional medical attention for his wounds, you should keep a watchful eye over him. If the wound develops any signs of infection, like warmth to touch, redness, fever, headache, or increased pain, take him to the emergency room right away.

Also, seek professional medical care at once if he feels worse or different, the wound gets worse or does not heal as expected, or he has any other unusual symptoms. Be sure to follow the discharge instructions about changing the dressings and keeping the wound clean.

How Dog Bites Can Be Different for a Child Than for an Adult

As a child grows, bones elongate and skin and connective tissue stretches, so dog bite scars and other damage can get worse as the child gets older. A child might have to endure additional surgeries, physical therapy, and other painful procedures as he ages.

Depending on the age of the child, he might not be able to tell you what is going on inside his body. He should have a thorough medical workup to check for any internal damage from the attack.

Many children develop nightmares, fear of animals, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the trauma of a dog attack. You should talk with your child’s doctor about taking the child for counseling to help him through this emotionally painful experience.

How to Get Legal Help for Dog Bite Injuries

If your child has been the victim of a dog attack, you should talk with a lawyer to find out about compensation for what your child has gone through and could face in the future. You may have questions like if the owner is liable. You may be wondering how insurance works in these cases or how much a settlement could be for a dog bite. We will explain the dog bite statutes and your legal rights at no cost to you. To set up your free consultation with Max Meyers Law, call us today at 425-399-7000.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.