ABC7’s The More in the Morning team spoke with Dr. Michael K. Kim, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon, about what to do if you or a family member is attacked by a dog and sustain injuries that could lead to scarring. The number of dog bite incidents during the pandemic has tripled.
Here are some startling metrics:
- 3-6 million animal bites per year in the United States, 80-90% are dog bites.
- Less than 1% of dog bite wounds require hospitalization
- Bites of the hand are high risk for infection because of the relatively poor blood supply of many structures of the hand.
- Peak incidence of animal bites occurs among children aged 5-9 years old.
An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. Avoidance and monitoring children as they interact with their canine counterparts is the best way to mitigate the risk of a dog bite injury. ~ Dr. Michael K. Kim
How are dog bites different from other types of injuries?
- Dogs tend to shake their heads around during an attack. This strength of the dog’s jaw results in flesh tearing, loss of soft tissue, and crushing damage to the surrounding skin.
- The risk of infection is greater than other types of lacerations because the organisms in the dog’s mouth are more virulent and contain a mixed contamination of bacteria. When the dog’s teeth penetrate the skin, they can inject the deeper tissue and lead to later infection, presenting as redness, fever, and swelling.
- Unlike a cut from a sharp object which can leave a clean wound, dog bites often result in severe and permanent scarring.
What is the Treatment for Dog Bite Injuries?
- Initial treatment of any dog bite will include a thorough cleansing, antibiotic treatment, and a tetanus shot.
- When the bite penetrates deeply into the skin and tissue, tearing lacerations of the face, lips or ears, it should be treated by a skilled plastic surgeon. Repair of the dog bite requires surgically cutting away the contaminated tissue, along with thorough irrigation of the wound with saline or antibiotic solution. The freshened skin edges are meticulously closed under magnification.
- If the health status of the dog is unknown, the dog bite should be reported to the Health Department to ascertain whether the dog is up to date on rabies and other vaccinations.