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Treating Your Child's Dog Bite
last updated:
Wed, 4/13/2011 1:42 PM

For many families, our pets are an essential part of everyday life. Walks in the parks, playing fetch and napping around the house are a daily occurrence for our beloved friends. Parents need to be informed and take certain precautions to ensure that the entire family unit is living happily - and most importantly, safely - all under the same roof.

Dr. Barry Gilmore, director of Emergency Services at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, shares some important information about what parents should know about dog bites.

What is the most common reason for a child to be bitten by a dog?
A toddler or small child usually startles the family pet or approaches an unfamiliar animal. Many times, children will approach an older pet or one who is eating or sleeping causing a negative reaction from the animal.

What are some injuries seen resulting from a dog bite?
Puncture wounds to the skin from the animal’s teeth are usually the most common injury seen. Many times, small tears and scrapes are seen as well from the teeth and claws.

Parents should clean the wound immediately with soap, warm water and hydrogen peroxide. Stopping the bleeding and assessing the severity of the wound needs to happen next. This will then determine whether or not a visit to the emergency department or pediatrician’s office is needed. Injuries to the face or hands and ones that are deep or have persistent bleeding need to be evaluated by a doctor. Parents need to ask the doctor if a tetanus shot should be administered after the child is bitten or scratched.

Where do dogs usually bite a child?
Injuries to the face are most common for small children as they are at eye level with the animal. Older children usually have injuries to their lower legs and arms. Other more severe injuries can occur to the eyes, mouth or neck area.

What can parents do for any pain or swelling?
For injuries not requiring medical attention, cold compresses to the skin will reduce the swelling and help with the pain. Motrin or other pain relievers can be given every 4 to 6 hours for children over the age of six months. For children under six months, Infant’s Tylenol can be given. Parents should watch the wound for infection until it has healed completely.


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Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center is a leading children's hospital in the Mid South, providing pediatric care to children from 95 counties in six states.
50 N. Dunlap Street, Memphis, Tennessee 38103 • (901) 287-KIDS