Last Christmas Eve, as the Wirdzek family celebrated in their new home, they never dreamed they would spend the evening in the emergency room. That night, 5-year-old Lauren Wirdzek’s holiday was interrupted when she was bitten on the face by her Aunt's terrier.
"It was a nightmare," said Judy Wirdzek, Lauren’s mother. "One minute Lauren and the dog were playing, then the dog had her by her face, shaking her back and forth."
"This story is not uncommon," reported Edward Luce, MD, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS.) "Plastic surgeons repair gruesome results of thousands of dog attacks every year."
In fact, each year 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs, and 60 percent of the victims are children. Children are frequently bitten on the face, which can result in severe lacerations, infection or scarring. If a child is severely bitten by a dog, parents should ask the emergency room physician to call a plastic surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, ensuring that the doctor is qualified to perform reconstructive and cosmetic procedures on the face and all areas of the body.
Months after the attack, Lauren Wirdzek is recovering. "Lauren has a scar on her lower cheek, but soon she will have a scar reduction procedure," said Wirdzek. "Parents should ask for a plastic surgeon because they have the training to preserve and rearrange skin and tissue. It was horrifying to see our child’s damaged face after the attack, but our plastic surgeon did a beautiful job."
The ASPS offers these tips to prevent dog attacks:
Spay/neuter your dog.
Train your dog in obedience.
Not play aggressive games with your dog.
Follow leash laws.
Always supervise children when they play with dogs.
Keep the family dog healthy –- an unnoticed injury can make a dog aggressive.
Remember your dog should be part of the family. Unsocialized “outdoor” dogs are more likely to bite than dogs that socialize with people.
Never approach an unfamiliar dog.
Never run from or scream at a dog.
Tell an adult if they see a stray dog or a dog acting strangely.
Never disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
Never play aggressive games with dogs.
Be “still like a tree” when an unfamiliar dog comes up to you.
If a dog knocks you over, roll into a ball and stay still.
Never play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
Not look a dog right in the eye.
Not play with a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
Children should tell an adult right away.
Control the bleeding and wash the bite area with soap and water.
Get medical help immediately to determine the risk of infection for rabies.
Because serious dog bites can cause scarring, be sure to ask in the emergency room for a plastic surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. This insures that the doctor is uniquely qualified to perform reconstructive and cosmetic procedures on the face and all areas of the body.
Dog Bite Facts:
4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year.
Nearly 20 people a year die from dog bites in the U.S.
Children make up 60 percent of dog bite victims.
Every 40 seconds someone in the U.S. seeks medical care because of a dog bite.
About half of all children in the U.S. will be bitten by a dog by the 12th grade. 70 percent of dog bites occur when the dog is on the owner’s property.
For more information on dog bite prevention or to download the “Beware the Bite!” children’s activity sheet, visit www.plasticsurgery.org. To find a certified plastic surgeon or to learn more about reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery,
call 1-888-4-PLASTIC (1-888-475-2784).