Be On Guard Against Dog Bites

Experts offer tips that could prevent serious injury

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WEDNESDAY, May 31, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- For too many Americans, a dog's bite is definitely worse than his bark.

Each year in the United States, more than 4.7 million people suffer dog bites and more than half of those victims are under 14 years of age.

Among those children, 150,000 have injuries that require treatment in a hospital emergency department, say experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Here's what parents can do to protect their children from dog bites, the AAP suggests:

  • Pick a dog wisely. When deciding on a dog, consult a veterinarian about the behavior of different breeds and pick on that's a good match for your family.
  • Socialize your dog. Gradually expose your puppy to a variety of people and other animals so it feels at ease in all kinds of different situations. Continue this exposure as your dog gets older.
  • Train your dog. Commands can build a bond of obedience and trust between man and dog. Avoid aggressive games such as wrestling or tug-of-war with your dog.
  • Vaccinate your dog against rabies and other diseases.
  • Neuter or spay your dog. This makes them less aggressive and less likely to bite.
  • Monitor youngsters. Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
  • Teach dog safety. Tell your child to see if a dog is with an owner and if the dog looks friendly, and to first ask the owner for permission to pet the dog. Let the dog sniff your child and have your child touch the dog gently, avoiding the face, head, and tail.
  • Beware 'problem moments.' Teach your child to never bother a dog it it's sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
  • Walk, don't run. Tell children never to run past a dog.
  • Know self-defense. If a dog threatens you, remain calm and avoid eye contact. Stand still or back away slowly until the dog leaves. If the dog knocks you down, curl into a ball and protect your face with your hands.
  • Practice proper bite care. If a dog bites your child, clean small wounds with soap and water and seek medical attention for larger wounds. Contact the dog's veterinarian to check the dog's vaccination records.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about preventing dog bites.

SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, May 17, 2006

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