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Teaching children how to avoid dog bites

By Dr. Chris Duke

Knight Ridder Newspapers

As a departure from the usual pet care advice, I instead chose to write on a subject that is of utmost important in public safety.

Particularly in children, the subject of dog bite prevention deserves some attention.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) offers useful information all of us can use to protect ourselves and loved ones.

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When children are attacked by dogs, they are frequently bitten in the face.

Any bite to the face can result in severe lacerations, infection or disability. Since plastic surgeons are often called in to deal with the injuries after the fact, they offer the following tips to prevent dog attacks before they happen:

Teach children to: Ask permission from a dog's owner before petting it. Never approach an unfamiliar dog. Drop to the ground, curl in a ball and cover the head and face if a dog knocks them over.

Never disturb a dog that is eating, sleeping or caring for puppies. Never tease or play too rough with a dog. Never play with a dog before allowing it to see you and smell you first.

To prevent dog bites: Never leave infants or children alone with a dog. Follow leash laws. Keep your dog healthy -- an unnoticed injury can make your dog aggressive. Do not let dogs run loose. A dog is less likely to bite if its owners train it to interact with people and take it to obedience classes. Always supervise children when they play with dogs.

If a child is attacked: Try to loosen the dog's grip by pushing your arm against its throat. Place something between the child and the dog, like a jacket or a purse. Control the bleeding and wash the wound with soap and water -- then get medical help immediately to determine the risk of infection and or rabies.

These prevention tips may seem to be common sense, and many readers may think they will never have to deal with a dog bite emergency.

Hopefully, most will never encounter such an emergency situation.

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However, if just one person (especially a child) is helped by these tips from the ASPS, the effort will have been worth it.

In the meantime, enjoy your pets.

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