No one imagines a beloved pet attacking a toddler, but it can happen. Here are some ways to protect your children from possible dog bites…

“Young children are especially vulnerable to dog bites because they may not notice subtle signs that a dog may bite,” says Dr Charles Elmaraghy, associate professor of otolaryngology at Ohio State’s College of Medicine and chief of otolaryngology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Sadly, bites to the face often require reconstructive surgery to repair injuries ranging from nerve damage to tissue loss.

“We see everything from simple lacerations to injuries in which there’s significant tissue loss that needs grafting or other reconstructive surgery,” says Dr Elmaraghy.

What kind of dogs bite?

While certain breeds are known to bite more frequently or cause more severe injuries, a new study co-authored by Dr Elmaraghy found that the breed was unknown in about 60 percent of dog-bite cases.

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Researchers from The Ohio State University College of Medicine and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical explored the risks of dog-bite injuries to the face in children and bite severity by breed, size and head structure.

They found that pit bulls and mixed breed dogs have the highest risk of biting and cause the most damage per bite. The same goes for dogs with wide and short heads weighing between 66 and 100 pounds (27-45kg).

Doctors want parents of young children to use this information when deciding which dog to own.

“The purpose of this study was to evaluate dog bites in children, and we specifically looked at how breed relates to bite frequency and bite severity,” says Dr Garth Essig, lead author and otolaryngologist at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. “Because mixed breed dogs account for a significant portion of dog bites, and we often didn’t know what type of dog was involved in these incidents, we looked at additional factors that may help predict bite tendency when breed is unknown like weight and head shape.”

For the study, researchers reviewed 15 years of dog-related facial trauma cases from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the University of Virginia Health System, performed an extensive literature search from 1970 to current for dog-bite papers that reported breed and combined this with hospital data to determine relative risk of biting and average tissue damage of bite.

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Be a model for your kids

“Children imitate their parents,” says Meghan Herron, associate professor of veterinary clinical services at Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “Be a model for your child and avoid any confrontational or risky interactions that might trigger a fear or fear aggression response if the child were to mimic it. This includes harsh reprimands, smacking, pushing off of furniture and forcibly taking away an item.”

How to protect children when they are around dogs

Herron offers the following tips for dog owners:

Let resting dogs lie – Most bites to children occur from a family dog when the dog is resting and the child approaches. Try to provide and encourage resting places away from where children run and play.

Teach children to let resting dogs lie and to stay out of dog crates, beds and other resting places that are designated for the dog. If the dog’s favourite spot is on the couch, put a towel or blanket down to clearly delineate the dog space versus child space.

Place a barrier between dogs and young children – Many bites to children occur even when an adult is in the room. If you can’t devote your attention to the interactions between the dog and child, it may be best to have a physical barrier between them, such as a baby gate or crate for the dog. This is especially important for toddlers whose behaviours may be more erratic, unpredictable or frightening to a dog.

Keep kids away while dogs are eating – Children should not approach, touch or otherwise interact with dogs while they are eating. Provide quiet areas for dogs to eat away from areas where children run and play. Rawhides and other flavoured chews should only be given when dogs are separated from child play areas.

Teach children to find an adult if a dog takes one of their toys or snacks. Children should never attempt to retrieve these items themselves.

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Source: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center via www.sciencedaily.com

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.