Does My Child Need a Tetanus Shot After Dog Bite?

If your child is not up to date with their tetanus shots, they will definitely need to go to the doctor to get a tetanus shot after any dog bite that breaks the skin, even if it’s a small break. If you’ve been following the usual DTaP schedule, your child will get a tetanus shot before two, between four and six, and between 11 and 12 years of age.

Typically when a dog bites a child, the dog will be known to you. It can be your own dog, a friend or neighbor’s dog, or the dog of a family member. This is the best case scenario because you know or you can find out the animal’s health history. When the dog is a stray, you’ll also have to be concerned about rabies if the animal can’t be located and tested.

The horror stories about getting injections in your stomach for rabies if you’re bitten by a stray are a thing of the past. Today we have new, faster rabies tests that can detect the disease early so you can avoid treatment if the dog is uninfected. When possible, after a bite from a stray, try to tell the authorities information about the location of the incident.

What to Do After a Dog Bite

Aside from getting a tetanus booster, there are other steps you’ll need to take if your child is bitten by a dog. What will be appropriate in your situation will depend on the severity of the bite. If you have any doubts, it’s best to go to the doctor.

  • If the bite is not bleeding heavily, wash it with soap and plenty of warm water
  • If the bite is serious, dial 911 or take your child straight to the doctor or hospital
  • If the skin is broken, apply pressure to the bite with a clean towel until the bleeding stops

If your child has been bitten on the face, neck, hand, or foot, it’s especially important to get medical attention because these areas can be prone to infection and scarring. After getting medical attention, if the bite becomes red, hot, swollen, or shows signs of pus, you’ll need to go back to the doctor. 

Dog Bites and the Law

Whether or not you can file a lawsuit to have some of your medical bills compensated depends on the circumstances of your child’s bite and the laws in your state. In some states, a dog’s owner may be found liable even if the incident happens on their property and their dog has never shown aggression.  

These laws can be complicated, so it’s best to talk to an attorney to learn more about the laws in your state. If you’re thinking about filing a lawsuit, act quickly after a dog bite before the statute of limitations is up.

For example, in California, the dog’s owner is liable for the animal’s bite if it happened in a public place or a private space (as long as the victim was lawfully there). But Louisiana has a special element to its dog bite statute; strict liability applies only if the owner could have prevented the incident.

To prevent your child from being bitten again in the future, teach them how to recognize signs of dog aggression. It’s also important to teach them to avoid animals they don’t know and always be gentle with dogs. If a dog is showing signs that they don’t want to play with your child, they should learn how to respect that.  

Emotional Trauma After a Dog Bite

Being bitten by a dog can result in intrusive memories of the event, mood swings, nightmares, memory problems, and sleep disorders. In extreme cases, it can lead to your child developing post-traumatic stress disorder. 

If your child is showing any signs of trauma after a bite, it’s important to make sure they get therapy to help them cope. Trauma can impede your child’s emotional and academic growth and lead to a lifelong fear of dogs. 

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