An estimated 4.7 million Americans are bit by dogs each year. This figure includes roughly 600,000 children. Senior citizens and mail carriers are the second and third most-common victims of dog attacks. Some of these bites are nips from the family dog, but more vicious attacks occur when dogs break out of an enclosure or dart off a leash, which causes injuries so severe they require surgery to repair. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons performs 33,000 of these surgeries a year – most routinely to the hands fending off the attack.
Hospitalization and hand surgery after a dog bite
Every day, there are 866 Emergency Department visits and 26 hospitalizations related to dog bites in the United States.
While only about 1% of dog bite injuries in the United States require hospitalization, the cost of that hospital stay costs the average patient $18,200.
Reasons for hospital stays and surgeries include:
- Skin and tissue infections (43.2%)
- Open extremity wounds (22.1%)
- Open head, neck, trunk wounds (10.5%)
- Upper limb fractures (5.3%)
- Connective tissue disease (2.1%)
- Infective arthritis and osteomyelitis (1.1%)
- Septicemia (1.1%)
- Crushing injury or internal injury (1.1%)
- Lower limb fracture (1.1%)
- Other (1.1%)
Common dog bite-related surgical procedures include:
- Wound debridement
- Suture of skin and tissues
- Tendon and muscle therapies
- Skin grafts
- Fracture or dislocation procedures
- Joint repairs
- Nose, mouth, and pharynx repairs
- Eye surgeries
- Traction, splints, and other wound care
Dog bites to the hand
Most dog bites to the hand occur when owners are trying to separate two dogs that are fighting. One study from Sweden found that 75 of 81 hand dog bite victims were treated at the Department of Hand Surgery. Of the 75, 51 patients were operated on, and 31 patients required a hospital stay at some point within six months. Injuries included lacerations of skin, muscle, and tendon, as well as hard fractures, arterial and nerve injuries, and traumatic finger amputations. Infections, necrosis, arthritis, osteomyelitis (bone infections), and sepsis were some of the serious complications. In the worst-case scenario, dog bite injuries can be associated with Capnocytophaga canimorsus, an aggressive organism that leads to sepsis and death, particularly in immunocompromised individuals.
What to do if you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog
California’s strict liability laws under Section 3342 of the Civil Code assigns a legal duty for dog owners to keep their canines under control at all times, whether they have a past history of aggressive behavior or not.
If bitten, request proof of rabies vaccination from the dog owner. Take down the owner’s name and contact information from his or her driver’s license, and contact the dog’s veterinarian to verify vaccination records. Immediately contact a doctor to ensure proper wound treatment. If the wound does not stop bleeding when pressure is applied, go to the Emergency Room at once. After the wounds have been properly treated, consider issues of liability to help you cover escalating medical expenses and make sure the same attack doesn’t happen to another person.
Contact Los Angeles dog bite lawyer Sean Salamati for free legal assistance within 2 years of sustaining a serious dog bite injury. You only pay a legal fee if we win your case. In one successful resolution, a disfigured boy received $300,000 for his injuries. We cannot guarantee a particular dollar amount for your case, but we know a fair settlement offer when we see one.
- American Society of Plastic Surgery – Hand Surgeons Provide Update on Wild Animal Bites, https://www.plasticsurgery.org/news/press-releases/hand-surgeons-provide-update-on-wild-animal-bites
- Dean Smith MD – Animal and Human Bites, http://www.deansmithmd.com/Animal-and-Human-Bites
- Healthcare Cost & Utilization Project – Stat Briefs, https://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb101.pdf
- Research Gate – Dog Bite Injuries to the Hand, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51061952_Dog_bite_injuries_to_the_hand
- NCBI – Mammalian Bite Injuries To The Hand And Their Management, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4110393/