ClickCease Does My Child Need a Tetanus Shot After a Dog Bite | What You Should Know

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Does My Child Need a Tetanus Shot After a Dog Bite

Does a Child Need a Tetanus Shot After a Dog Bite? Insight From Expert Dog Bite Lawyers

Dog bite experiences can be traumatic for everyone involved — especially if the person on the receiving end of the bite is a child. In many instances, when a dog bites a child, the dog will oftentimes not be a complete stranger. That could be your own dog, a neighbor’s dog, or the dog of an extended family member. This is, of course, the ideal scenario since you’d know or would be able to find out easily the dog’s health history. But in the case of an unknown animal, you’ll also have to be concerned about rabies.

Dog bites are emotionally and physically devastating injuries — especially for a kid who might not completely grasp the experience. And while a dog bite can be one of those seemingly one-in-a-million occurrences that don’t happen to many people, they’re actually quite common.

According to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, there are 2,400 dog attacks every day, 100 each hour, and one every 36 seconds. Approximately 800,000 dog bites require medical attention each year, and 334,000 of those are severe enough to warrant treatment in a hospital. Getting even more specific, more than 50 percent of all dog bite victims are children. And while only 12 percent of adults require medical treatment, 26 percent of all children need to go to the emergency room or see a doctor.

Per the CDC, dog bites are a greater health problem for children than measles, mumps, and whooping cough combined. They are also more common than injuries from bike accidents, playground injuries, mopeds, skateboards, or ATVs. The most common victims are boys ages 5 to 9. In general, children are most frequently bitten in the face, neck, and head.

With all of this in mind, one has to question, if your child is bitten by a dog, should they get a tetanus shot? Our expert legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers weigh in on the issue.

It must be noted that if you or your child was bitten by a dog, you should seek medical attention and consult with your doctor on treatment plans.

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Does My Child Need a Tetanus Shot After a Dog Bite?

As already mentioned, dog bites happen every day. If your child is not up to date with their tetanus shot and the dog’s health history is unknown to you, they will definitely need to go to the doctor to get a tetanus shot after any dog bite that breaks the skin, no matter how small it may seem.

Today, we have newer and faster rabies tests, such as the LN34 developed by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  that can detect the disease early to determine whether or not the individual needs rabies treatment. Thankfully, getting injections in your stomach for rabies is a thing of the past.

However, rabies is fatal if not treated early. Children exposed to rabid animals could avoid the weeks-long series of shots if they get tested immediately following a dog bite incident.

Rabies in Children

Rabies is a viral infection that attacks the nervous system. And once symptoms develop, it can be fatal. When the rabies virus enters a child’s body through a bite, it travels to the central nervous system. Once the virus reaches the brain, it travels into the nerves and grows in different organs. The rabies virus is spread through an infected animal’s saliva. A child may get rabies if they are bitten or scratched by an animal with rabies.

Symptoms can start 5 days to more than a year after contact with the rabies virus. The average time is about 2 months General symptoms for 2 to 10 days of stage 1 rabies may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Other symptoms include pain, itching, numbness, or tingling at the site of the wound. For stage 2 rabies, the symptoms include:

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Loss of muscle movement (paralysis)
  • Coma
  • Death

The symptoms of rabies can look like other health conditions, so it’s crucial to seek medical attention following a dog bite. Vaccines that give immunity to rabies must be given soon after contact with the rabies virus. Once symptoms occur, there is no known treatment for rabies, and it most often leads to death.

Why Does a Dog Bite?

If dogs could talk, we could very well just ask them why they bite. But since this is not a reality, we don’t exactly know why a dog bites a person. However, we do know that they can result from many different reasons. Sometimes, children do or say something that frightens or angers a dog. There are other instances when a dog may be upset or react to something that has nothing to do with the victim.

While it would be impossible to list every situation or behavior, there are many common sense examples that children should never do to avoid getting bit by a dog:

  • Try to pet a stranger’s dog without asking the owner if it’s okay
  • Place your face near the dog’s mouth
  • Pull on its ears, leg, or tail
  • Hit, kick, or beat the dog
  • Growl or threaten the dog
  • Tease the dog
  • Corner the dog
  • Wave your hands or feet in the dog’s face
  • Cover the dog with a blanket

Once you think about how to act around a dog, common sense will usually guide your actions. Moreover, remind a child to stay calm and never make sudden unexpected moves when approaching a dog. If possible, they should let the dog approach them and sniff their hand. Once the dog is comfortable, it can be possible to pet them. Also, never pet a stray dog.

The best way to prevent a child from being bitten is to 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 to respect that.

What to Do After a Dog Bite

Other than getting a tetanus booster, there are other steps you’ll need to take if your child is bitten by a dog. The next steps will depend on the severity of the bite. And just to reiterate, if you have any doubts, it’s best to consult with a doctor. Other things to keep in mind include:

  • 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.

Getting bitten by a dog is the second most frequent cause of visits to emergency rooms for children according to a survey. 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. If the bite becomes red, hot, swollen, or shows signs of pus after getting medical attention, you’ll need to go back to the doctor to get the bite checked out.

Available Damages

When a dog bites or attacks a kid, there is an immediate reaction of surprise and shock. Depending on the nature of the attack, the physical wounds can even be overshadowed by the trauma the child experiences.

The attack can create an entire set of injuries that are not so easily seen, especially in the immediate aftermath. These injuries are psychological and can be found in the way a child thinks, feels, and deals with other people.

When it comes to dog bites, California is a strict liability state. So as long as a dog bite occurred in a public place or lawfully on private property — including the dog owner’s property — the dog owner will be held liable for any injuries, physical or emotional. Dog bite victims in California are typically entitled to compensation for their losses, which can include:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Medical Bills
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Lost Earning Capacity
  • Psychological Counseling
  • Physical/Vocational Therapy

In extreme cases when there is death involved, the surviving family members of anyone who was killed by a dog may be entitled to damages on the decedent’s behalf. Such a claim would be filed as a wrongful death case and would possibly entitle survivors to additional damages.

West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here to Help

If your child has sustained injuries as a result of a dog bite, as their parent or guardian, you have the right to hold the party at-fault responsible. A dog bite attorney at our firm can help you recover financial compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Call us today at (888) 979-9356 or email [email protected] to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, caring, and compassionate legal team.


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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