The physical and psychological effects of a dog bite in California

A 4-year-old California boy went looking for his mother in his backyard this February. According to the Huffington Post, the boy's father's police dog was in the yard and attacked the child, wrapping its mouth around his leg. A neighbor was able to pry the dog off the boy, and the child was rushed to the hospital. Unfortunately, his food had to be amputated as a result of the incident.

A dog attack can cause obvious physical damage to victims, but some side effects may be a little more masked. Victims and their families should know what to look for in order to hold responsible parties accountable for damages.

Physical effects and treatments

A dog's teeth can cause significant physical damage to a human body part, such as the following:

  • Puncturing the skin
  • Tearing the skin
  • Crushing bones

As the Mayo Clinic notes, minor wounds may simply need to be washed and bandaged. However, deep wounds that lead to excessive bleeding should prompt a visit to a health professional.

In addition to the visible damage, an infection could sink in. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that some people with certain medical conditions could be more likely to suffer an infection. For example, someone who has not had a tetanus shot would be at a higher risk of developing the disease. Rabies is also a major concern with animal bites. In both cases, experts urge victims to seek medical treatment as soon as possible, which will often involve an antibiotic.

Psychological damage

A report in Contemporary Pediatrics discusses the likelihood of developing posttraumatic stress disorder following a dog bite, especially when children are victims. Someone who suffers an attack can experience a fear that will have lifetime repercussions. The report likens a child getting bitten by a dog to an adult getting attacked by a bear.

A child who develops PTSD is likely to exhibit signs such as a change in appetite, behavioral problems, decreased performance in school, withdrawal, irritability and depression. Contemporary Pediatrics warns that some of these symptoms could become more pronounced if the child is near a dog.

By the numbers

Unfortunately, California sits atop the list of states in the country when it comes to dog bite claims. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the state saw 1,867 such claims in 2014.

California does permit victims to hold responsible parties accountable for damages. That can include both the economic effects such as medical bills, surgeries and rehabilitation, as well as noneconomic damages like trauma and pain and suffering. People who have questions about this issue should speak to an attorney.