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Children & Dog Bites: December 27, 2011

We love to love them, but sometimes love hurts. The family dog can inflict a painful bite; the most common victims are children between the ages of five and nine.

“Most people think their pet is friendly, their pet is clean and therefore most injuries are underestimated,” says Dr. Dennis Sagini, an orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

In 2006, more than 31,000 people underwent some type of surgery after a dog bite. More common are complications from an unchecked infection.

“People tend to come see me when the bite’s become infected, and when they do become infected they’re usually very severe and they don’t respond to the normal antibiotics,” says Dr. Sagini.

Dog bites tend to be crushing and can result in broken bones. There’s usually tearing of the skin and can also be deep tissue damage. If the bite is near a joint in the hand, it can cause more severe problems.

“Simply because if an infection gets into the joint that infection can damage the cartilage that’s within the joint,” says Dr. Sagini.

Animal bites should always be checked out by a doctor. When it involves severe bleeding, it requires urgent care.

“Whoever’s bitten should be immediately transferred to an emergency department because there are vessels in the hand that can bleed very aggressively and are difficult to control at home,” says Dr. Sagini.

Most time bite victims will have their wounds treated and be sent home.

“We will leave wounds slightly open to drain, a little bit of dressing changes, as well as antibiotics that are given over the course of the healing process,” says Dr. Sagini.

The number one thing to remember: delaying medical treatment can come back to bite you.