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September 15, 2012

Use caution when combining kids, dogs

With kids and dogs out and about this summer, something is bound to happen when the two groups encounter each other, particularly if a child provokes a dog, resulting in a dog provoking a child. 

Believe it or not, more than 4.5 million dog bites happen each year. Here are a few suggestions for taking the bite out of a dog’s bark.

First, teach your children to be careful around pets. They should ask permission from a dog’s owner before petting the dog, and never approach a strange dog they do not know. Remind them never to bother a dog that’s caring for puppies, sleeping or eating. Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog. It is also important to make sure that your dog is vaccinated against rabies.

If a dog appears threatening, teach your children to stay calm and avoid eye contact. They should stay still or back away slowly until the dog leaves, but never turn and run. If a dog knocks a child down, he or she should curl into a ball and keep their hands over their face and neck.

If a bite does occur, apply pressure to stop the bleeding, and wash it out with soap and running water for several minutes. Then, cover it with sterile gauze or a band-aid, and seek medical attention to determine whether further treatment, such as stitches, antibiotics or rabies prevention is indicated.

If your child has received a bite and in the days following you notice that it appears hot, swollen, red, drains pus or they develop a fever, you should seek medical attention because this may represent an infection brewing.

Hopefully, tips like this will cover any “pet-ticular” issues you have and avoid any “cat-tastrophes” when it comes to worrying about your child getting bitten by dogs.

Dr. Lewis First is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.

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