Albany Med Health System Issues Safety Tips Amid Increase in Dog Bite Cases

With a recent increase in children needing treatment for dog bites, the Albany Med Health System is offering tips that can help keep children and family pets safe during the holidays.

At Albany Medical Center, the trauma department has reported 11 cases of pediatric patients seeking treatment for dog bites in December alone. National statistics show more than 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs each year. Among those cases, 800,000 seek medical attention for the bites, with at least half of those cases among children.

Oftentimes, dog bites affecting young children are likely to be more severe and involve the head, face, or neck.

“One of the easiest things you can do is to make sure that small children and dogs are not left alone together,” said Ashley Bayly, pediatric trauma outreach and injury prevention coordinator.

A majority of the cases reportedly locally this month have involved family dogs, or dogs that were familiar to the home where the incident occurred. The American Veterinary Medicine Association says that dog bites are often a result of a dog’s individual history and behavior rather than its breed, size, age, or gender. Even if it is a family dog or a dog that you know to be well-behaved, injuries can occur quickly without supervision.

Here are some additional tips to consider:

  • Do not let children play aggressive games with dogs. Wrestling or tug-of-war with dog toys can lead to bites.
  • Teach children to move calmly and slowly around dogs. If a dog begins to act in a threatening way, teach children to remain calm and move away slowly until the dog loses interest.
  • Remind children that they shouldn’t bother a dog that is sleeping or eating. Dogs are more likely to respond aggressively during those times, even if they know the person.

When caring for a dog bite at home, place a clean towel or cloth over the bite if there is bleeding. Wash the bite carefully with soap and water and apply a sterile bandage, using antibiotic ointment daily to prevent infection. Seeking additional treatment, however, may be needed in more severe cases and to limit the risk of infection.

“With more people around during the holidays, and with more time inside during the winter months, it’s important to follow simple steps that can prevent these potentially serious injuries to young children,” Bayly said.