Dealing with a Dog Attack

Many of us are dog owners here in the UK and most of our pets are well-behaved, loving creatures. Unfortunately, though dog bites and attacks are becoming more and more common. The NHS Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) for the UK hospital admissions due to being ‘bitten or struck by a dog’ show that between April 2017 and March 2018 7,987 people required hospital treatment for dog attack injuries.

Young children are at the highest risk of dog attack injuries and are particularly vulnerable to bites to the face and neck.

What are the signs a dog is ready to attack?

Even the most well-behaved, socialised dog can turn aggressive if they feel they are under attack and become afraid in a situation they perceive to be threatening. For example, a child running towards them innocently to play may cause the dog to attack out of fear.

Although it may seem like these attacks happen out of the blue, here are some common build up signs to watch out for:

  • Growling
  • Turning their face away
  • Snarling
  • Baring their teeth
  • Crouching and walking low to the ground
  • Time to begin healing inside and out

How to handle a dog attack

If you or your child are attacked by a dog, it can be very distressing to say the least and, in the moment, you might be unsure how to handle the situation.

Try to stay calm and not panic, as this can aggravate the dog further. Also, don’t try to pull the dog away, as the dog could cause more harm in this instance. Locate the owner immediately and ask them to call their dog away and collect their details to report the incident. Assess the damage and go to emergency services straight away with any serious bites and injuries.

Moving on from a dog attack

Any dog attack injury is shocking and traumatic but when the initial pain subsides and the wounds heal it is time for the physical and emotional scars to be treated. Every person’s story is different and moving, each striving to meet the challenges that a potentially life changing injury can bring.

Finleigh-Anna’s Skin Story

Finleigh-Anna was a typical, lively nine-year old who loved swimming, gymnastics and cheerleading, but following a dog attack, she suffered multiple bites to the right side of her face, which changed everything.

The attack was devastating, and it was unexpected as the dog that attacked wasn’t a breed that you would suspect to be vicious.

Her mum Ros says ‘I remember looking at her face thinking what on earth are they (the Doctors) going to do with that? A dog bite so savage that it left her with a gaping hole in her cheek. I asked the Doctors if the nerve damage would be permanent, would she be able to smile again? The reply knocked me sick...... at this stage we just don’t know… My world fell apart, I felt totally broken.’

The risk of infection following dog bites is so high, Finleigh-Anna had to stay in hospital for a further two days. When she first looked in the mirror, she was very upset and said ‘I wish it never happened mam’ but Ros gave her some encouraging words and was happy to see her daughter smile for the first time since the attack. It was a relief, as she could see her nerves were working.

Going back to school

Finleigh-Anna went straight back to school once being discharged from hospital but was worried about what people would say.

“I looked horrible, ugly and I felt mad. I didn’t want to go to school. I felt self-conscious. I was worried about people laughing at me. What would people think? What would people say?”

Living with scars

It takes 12 to 18 months for scars to mature, so Finleigh-Anna and her mum had to wait to know how the scars would look for the rest of Finleigh-Anna’s life. They tried everything they could to improve the appearance of her scars, including massaging oil into the scars several times a day, and Ros arranging an ultrasound treatment, which can help breakdown scar tissue.

Nine months after the attack, Finleigh-Anna and mum Ros first visited Vanessa Jane Davies at Skin Camouflage Services. At this point, Finleigh-Anna was very conscious of her scars but seemed sure of herself, telling Vanessa all about her cheerleading. She wore heavy makeup when cheerleading but hadn’t really looked at concealing her scars with makeup on a daily basis.

She was really excited about her skin appointment and was keen to try it to see how the colours were mixed and applied to the skin. Finleigh-Anna and her mum were very pleased with the skin camouflage Vanessa prescribed and applied. Ros recalled:

“...the way she (Finleigh-Anna) looked at me and smiled when she saw herself in the mirror will stay with me forever.”

Finleigh-Anna says “I remember Vanessa teaching me how to put the make up on after she had spent a long time matching the colours to go with my skin. Once we’d finished, I looked in the mirror. I had no scars. I felt really happy, I felt much more confident and not self-conscious because I knew people couldn’t see my scars.”

Nearly three years on and Finleigh-Anna is bursting with confidence and continuing her cheerleading, and her and her mum Ros are so grateful for the help from Skin Camouflage Services. Vanessa continues to support Finleigh-Anna with assessments and skin camouflage appointments at her clinical practice in Yorkshire.

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Last revised: 10 October 2019
Next review: 10 October 2022