To have his own dog is on every child’s wish list. And why shouldn’t he have one? The family dog is playful and lovable—an instant companion for the children—and at the same time, loyal and protective. When your pet shows off its latest trick, it’s a definite cause for laughter and excitement. But what happens when your usually friendly pup suddenly hurts a loved one with a most painful bite?
Behind the bite It comes to you as a shock, but there are many reasons behind this dog attack. Jojo Isorena, certified training and behavior specialist and member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, cites three reasons for this violent change in behavior:
1. Doggie Discomfort. “Very often, dogs bite because they are placed in a situation that they may find threatening or very uncomfortable,” says Isorena. Dogs, just like humans, have their personal space. If your little one corners the family dog on its leash, it will be provoked to bite. It might be cute to capture your kid kissing or hugging the family dog in a photo, but these situations can result in injury.
2. Hands Off! Isorena lists your dog’s food, bone, toys, and bed as some of its prized possessions. And when you try to take your dog away from them, it will be quick to bite! “Anybody who approaches these valued resources are perceived as threats to the dog’s possessions and will be potential bite victims,” warns Isorena. So when busy with its favorite chew toy or when at rest at his favorite corner in the kitchen, leave your dog alone.
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3. Animal Instinct. “When we get all excited and start to run around dogs, we can trigger their predatory instincts to chase and eventually bite,” explains Isorena. A blur of little legs running all over the backyard might not bring out the best doggie behavior, even in the meekest of brown-eyed pets.
When dogs bite About 20 percent of dog-bite victims are kids 6 years old and below, says Philip Morales, M.D., pediatrician at the National Children’s Hospital in Quezon City and diplomate of the Philippine Pediatric Society. Dr. Morales adds that only 22 percent of dogs have been protected against rabies, a potentially lethal disease.
“Rabies is a disease of the dog, which is passed on to humans through a bite,” says Dr. Morales. There are three categories of dog bites, each with a corresponding regimen of treatments:
1. Casual Contact. There are no signs of puncture in the skin, but a dog licking your skin can expose you to rabies.
2. Scratches and abrasions. An open wound that comes in contact with the dog’s saliva falls under this category as well as contact between your mouth and the dog’s saliva.
3. Visible wounds with punctured skin and lacerations. Wounds in the neck and head belong to this category, too. This last category is the most severe.
The thought of catching rabies from your beloved pet is, no doubt, a scary one. But there are procedures to protect you and your family from harm.
“Dog bites should be immediately and vigorously washed with soap and water for 10 minutes,” advises Dr. Morales. After cleaning, apply an antiseptic like alcohol or tincture of iodine, then proceed to the nearest animal bite center. “There are over a hundred animal bite centers, and two of the major ones are the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila and The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa.” There, the bite wound would be cleaned, and the victim would be given the necessary vaccinations.
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Dr. Morales explains that vaccinations are not needed in the first category of dog bites, but the anti-tetanus and anti-rabies vaccines are imperative in the second and third. There are two kinds of anti-rabies vaccines: the active and the passive. The active vaccine is given for the second and third categories. The passive or the Human Rabies Immune Globulin is administered just once and only for the third category.
The active anti-rabies vaccine is given five times in a month-long period—on day zero, day three, day seven, day 21 or 28, and day 30. Keep a close eye on the dog for 14 days, starting on the day of the bite. If it remains normal throughout the period, then you don’t have to continue with the vaccination schedule. But if your once jolly pet becomes restless, aggressive, and difficult to feed, then you might just have a rabid dog. When the dog dies within 14 days, you must finish the schedule, stresses Dr. Morales.
Your dog is there for you and your family to love, so don’t be afraid. Give your dog the best protection by keeping it happy and healthy, and teaching your children the right way to care for it.
Pet Safety Guidelines
Jojo Isorena, a certified training and behavior specialist and member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, gives guidelines on safe child-dog interaction.
Be calm and quiet.
Be gentle when petting.
Learn to read your dog’s feelings and body language.
Give a treat when your dog does a trick.
Have fun experiences with dog and the whole family!
Disturb the dog when asleep or at play.
Attempt to hug or kiss the dog.
Lean or step over the dog.
Try to ride the dog.
Run around with the dog.
Philip Morales, M.D., pediatrician, National Children’s Hospital, Quezon City
Jojo Isorena, certified training and behavior specialist; member
Association of Pet Dog Trainers, International Association of Canine Professionals