Dog bites to the face can happen to anyone… We were on a long weekend at home, and I was brainstorming ideas from Pinterest to keep my toddlers busy, as the dreary weather kept us cooped up indoors. The kids were completely wound up, and repeatedly running their way through the indoor obstacle course we had created out of furniture. I turned my back for just a minute… and heard a shriek from my 3 year old.
Dog bites to the face are very common.
Dog bites to the face are one of the more common reasons my Plastic surgery skills are need in the middle of the night. But that day I actually understood why. My dog Maggie is all of 15 pounds. So she certainly doesn’t have the damage-inducing capability of a German Shepard or Rottweiler. But when I looked at my crying three year old and saw blood, my heart started racing.
I don’t think Maggie meant to really hurt him. He’s a typically three year old: loud, boisterous, and low to the ground. And Maggie has a bit of a nervous disposition. She was probably trying to put him in his place like she would any puppy- by giving him a quick nip. But without a protective layer of fur, he ended up with a cut below one eye.
I’m usually on the other end of this story.
As I mentioned, dog bites to the face are one of the more common reasons I’m called to the ER in the middle of the night. Most kids are in the five and under age group, because kids this age are low to the grown and often move quickly. As a mom I’ve always been very sympathetic for the parents involved. The ER is an unsettling place, especially if you aren’t in the medical field. And bites to the face are especially scary. Now I understand the questions that run through your head: “Is my kid going to look okay? Will the scar be bad? Did I fail as a mom?”
Wyatt’s bite was little more than a scratch.
Yes, it could have used a stitch or two. I mentally debated the benefit of stitches vs. the trauma of going to the ER and getting sedated. And ultimately I taped the wound shut with some steri-strips. I’ve certainly seen much worse. I’ve seen bites to the face that split the nostril completely, or went all the way through the lip. These weren’t even true attacks – just a quick nip on the dog’s part. Wyatt’s injury was pretty minimal in comparison. I always leave the ER feeling grateful I could put everything back together and reassure the parents.
The wound healed well.
No infection developed, thankfully. And when the steri-strips fell off a week later the cut was completely healed. The scar is starting to fade, and from my experience as a Plastic surgeon I know it’s going to be a fine white line eventually. I recently saw a photo of Wyatt from last summer, without the scar, and I was sad: I felt like I failed as a mom.
So what now?
My husband and I talked at length about the situation. We agree that not keeping a closer eye on the dog with the kids was our failing as parents, so we’ve made a few changes. We’re teaching Wyatt not to get in the dog’s face. We’re also showing him how to give commands to Maggie, so that she respects him as a person, and doesn’t treat him like an unruly puppy. Most importantly. we’ve agreed not to leave the dog and the kids alone, even for the amount of time it takes to run to the bathroom. Once the kids are 4 and 5, we’ll probably be able to relax a little. For now, if Maggie spends a lot of time in the bedroom during the day, that’s okay.
Dr. Greer is a Plastic Surgeon who practices in Cleveland, OH. Her passion is helping moms regain self-confidence by getting rid of sagginess, wrinkles, and stubborn fat. Read more about her at www.greerplastics.org.