Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dogs Behaving Badly - What To Do About A Dog Bite

Even man’s best friends can have mood swings and act out of character some times. We have all heard how Martha Stewart needed nine stitches after her gorgeous French bulldog, Francesca, knocked her in the face. This is an all too common injury that may land you in the emergency room begging for the plastic surgeon on call to suture up your wounds.

According to the American Humane Association, an estimated 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year and 800,000 dog bites require medical care. About half of dog attacks involve children under 12 years old. Dogs can get startled, feel threatened, agitated, or jealous at times and can react badly. Although they may not mean any harm, if their beloved owner’s face is too close to their snoot, tragedy can result especially when young children are involved. Any dog can bite, although some breeds are genetically predisposed to this behavior, such as pit bulls and Rottweilers. Veterinarians recommend that you keep your face away from dogs’ faces and avoid looking a canine straight in the eye in close proximity. The American Humane Association warns to never bother dogs that are busy, playing with or guarding toys, eating or sleeping.

Medical attention should be sought if the wound does not stop bleeding, or is open. If the bite is on your face, it must be treated promptly and with extra care to minimize potential scarring. According to New York City Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, David Shafer, MD, “The most common areas of the face to be attacked by a dog are the lips, nose, and cheeks, and these injuries can be disfiguring if not properly managed. Antibiotics may be necessary - especially for very large or deep puncture wounds. The wound needs to be thoroughly cleaned to ensure that all debris or broken teeth are removed prior to repair. If the edges of the laceration are unable to touch, the wound will need emergency medical attention. In most cases, absorbable sutures can be used inside the mouth and on the lip. If the skin is injured, removable sutures are usually required. It is important that the sutures are removed in five to seven days to help minimize scaring."

Dog bites to the face can also be life-threatening if major infection occurs. Dr. Shafer advises to watch for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, weeping and heat. “It is important to ensure that the patient is up-to-date on rabies vaccinations. Whereas small, simple cuts and lacerations can usually be repaired by the emergency room doctors and staff, more complex wounds require the evaluation and treatment by a plastic surgeon, especially on the central face where scarring is more common." Most plastic surgeons concur that early intervention is the best practice and primary repair is the method of choice as soon as possible. Furthermore, complicated lip reconstructions may necessitate multiple staged operations over several years in some cases.



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