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Anti-Dog Bite Doc

Anti-Dog Bite Doc Nayiri Doudikian-Scaff, M.D.
65 N. Madison
Suite 601
Pasadena, CA 91101

The lovable pooch may be man’s best friend but mixing dogs and toddlers can be a recipe for disaster. Because, even the friendliest, most mild-manner dog can turn savage in an instant and attack an infant, toddler or small child. Dog bite wounds on youngsters are often horrific, requiring years of reconstructive and plastic surgery.

Dogs biting children are such a problem for plastic surgeons that the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and several other concerned groups, are marking National Dog Bite Prevention Week from May 15th through the 21st.

About 4.7 million people are bitten in the U.S. annually, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, with children being 60 percent of victims. The biting animal is usually the family pet or a neighbor’s dog.

“My own rule is, if you have a small child, don’t keep a dog in the home,” says plastic surgeon Nayiri Doudikian-Scaff, M.D. “Away from your home, don’t let a small child go near a dog.”

It’s not that dogs are fiendish, evil beasts just waiting to get revenge because young children get so much attention and admiration. Experts say dogs have no concept of, nor desire for, revenge. Instead, it’s actually more a matter of mistaken identity and two clashing cultures, one human and one canine, where family matters are handled very differently.

Anti-Dog Bite Doc Why are dogs potentially dangerous near infants? If canines have any one driving force, it is the desire to eat. Unfortunately, a babe in arms makes the same cooing and gurgling sounds – to a dog’s ears, anyhow -- as a small, wounded animal. If the dog scares the infant and makes him cry, the baby, in the mind of the dog, has become prey and a possible meal. So he attacks. Flesh is often removed from the child’s face or body because an attacking dog clamps on with sharp teeth and then – like a shark in a feeding frenzy – shakes his head violently.

“In emergency rooms, I have seen many children horribly bitten by dogs and I think none of the attacks were witnessed by adults,” says Dr. Scaff. “That tells me nobody was monitoring the child or the dog.”

Because dogs live in packs in fairly complex societies, each animal has a place in order of importance. Thus, a dog ranks everybody in its human “pack,” from the top dog leader to the bottom dweller. Bad bites happen when the dog – due to his larger size or because the parents are always saying “no,” to the toddler – ranks himself one notch higher than the tyke. Then, if a small Frye breaches some point of doggie etiquette and, say, goes near the pooch’s food bowl, grabs a toy or bothers the dog’s pups, the higher ranking dog takes it upon himself to hand out some canine discipline. In the world of dogs, that involves a quick nip with some very sharp teeth. But a child’s face is much more tender than a dog’s hide and a horrible injury results for the youngster.

Dogs also are more likely to lash out and bite when they are chained, ill or surprised while sleeping. Outside, running, playing and screaming children can trigger an instinctive predator-prey reaction in many dogs. And, when children roughhouse with the family pet, dogs equate that type of play with their litter mates and other canines in which using teeth is normal.

“Because a dog bite can be so dirty, we clean the wound of debris and use strong antibiotics as a preventive step,” says Dr. Scaff. “The wound is then closed with tiny stitches. If tissue has been torn away, it can be sewn back or grafted from other areas of the child’s body.”

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, you can help prevent dog bites by telling children:

* Never approach an unfamiliar dog.

* If approached by an unfamiliar dog, stand still like a tree.

* Never run from a dog and never scream around a dog.

* If you believe a dog is about to attack, try to put something between yourself and the dog, like a backpack or a bicycle.

* If a dog knocks you over, roll into a ball, cover your face and stay still.

* Don't look a dog right in the eye.

Anti-Dog Bite Doc * Don't play with a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first. Children should never approach a dog unless supervised by an adult.

* Adults should never leave an infant or young child alone with any dog, not even the family pet.

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