Plastic Surgery Can Mitigate Effects of Dog Bites
Picture this… A little girl in Omaha is chasing a ball near the chain-link fence in her family’s back yard. Suddenly, the neighbor’s pit bull pushes the fence over and sinks its teeth into her arm. Although the neighbor is able to get the dog to let go, local authorities seize the dog, and a judge ends up deciding its fate.
Or this… A five-year-old boy is playing on a grassy area in front of his home near Edinburgh, Scotland, when a neighborhood dog attacks him. His face is so badly damaged that emergency facial surgery is required.
Sadly, these are true stories, taken from recent news – and incidents like these are far too common. According to the CDC, four-and-a-half million people in America were bitten by dogs last year, and more than half of those needing medical attention were children.
Children bitten by dogs often suffer heartbreaking injuries: skin, muscle and other tissues can be ripped away by a dog’s powerful jaws, exposing crushed nerves and torn blood vessels — and the rate of infection from dog bites is about 15 times greater than that from a typical laceration.
Fortunately, even horrible wounds such as these can often be repaired with plastic surgery. In fact, plastic surgeons performed more than 16,000 reconstructive surgeries after dog bites last year.
In a typical procedure, a surgeon will clean the wound, reposition or replace missing or torn flesh , stitch severed nerves and torn facial muscles, and sew the edges of the wound back together under a microscope using sutures as thin as a human hair.
Later, the remaining scars can be lessened by laser treatment, and the emotional scars can be managed with psychological counseling.
Now, we’re not trying to make you afraid of dogs. We all know that most pet dogs would sooner get hurt themselves than allow one of their family’s children to come to harm.
Nevertheless, most dog bites to children are from family pets or other familiar dogs.
Fortunately, they are also largely preventable. Experts recommend training dogs from an early age, having them neutered, and making sure they get plenty of regular exercise.
For more tips on preventing dog bites, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association online at www.avma.org.