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Treatment of Dog Bites

Kids and Dog Bites

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Updated May 19, 2003

Although most dog bites aren't fatal, many do require medical attention. In addition to basic first aid and cleaning the wound, your child may need antibiotics, a tetanus shot, and/or rabies vaccination after a dog bite. You should seek immediate medical attention for multiple or serious bites, especially in younger children and bites that involve your child's head and neck.

First Aid for Dog Bites

As with other wounds, you should stop any bleeding by putting pressure on the wound and then clean the area extensively. Since dog bites are at big risk of becoming infected, most children should take 3-7 days of an antibiotic, usually Augmentin, to prevent an infection from developing. Keep in mind that most dog bites aren't sutured closed, because of this risk of infection. Bites on the face, or those considered to be 'clean' or quickly seen by the doctor may be sutured at times.

Other preventative measures that you may need to take include getting your child a tetanus shot if they have had less than three doses. Even if they have had three or more tetanus shots, if they have a bite that is not considered clean and minor, they may need a tetanus shot if it is been more than 5 years since their last one. Children with clean, minor bites may also need a tetanus booster if their last one was more than 10 years ago. Since most kids have had 4 tetanus shots by 18 months of age and a booster at 4 and 12 years, they may not need another one after a dog bite.

Rabies

Since most dogs in the United States are vaccinated against rabies, it is not usually a big concern after a dog bite. If your child is bitten by a dog and you are not sure if they have had a rabies shot, you should contact your Pediatrician and/or your local health department or animal control.

Children may need to be treated with Rabies Immune Globulin and rabies vaccine within 48 hours of being bitten if the dog who bit them has not been vaccinated or if the dog can not be found. If the dog was found and its rabies status was unknown, a veterinarian may need to quarantine the dog for 10 days, although rabies vaccine should usually still be given to the child, especially if the dog bite was unprovoked.

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