Imagine yourself in your 7-year-old body. At this age, you might have just been learning to ride a bike and attending the 2nd grade. It’s likely that your world revolved around your home.

Next, imagine or remember how dogs appeared to your 7-year-old self. Instead of looking down on a dog’s back as an adult, you might have been looking at a dog eye-to-eye. For a child, a dog might appear as big as a bear would appear to an adult.

Do Dog Attacks Cause PTSD in Children?

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Most victims of dog attacks are children, and most of the attacking dogs belong to the child’s caregiver, a close family friend, or a relative. Unlike an adult-aged victim of a bear attack, a child attacked by a dog often continues to visit homes in which trusted adults still maintain an attachment to the attacking animal.

The sense of betrayal and insecurity that a child may suffer after a dog attack may contribute to ongoing emotional stress and developmental challenges. A dog attack on a child can have long term effects on the child’s sense of security, trust in the bigger world around them, their ability to cope with perceived risk, and their optimism for the future.

According to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, more than 50% of all U.S. dog bite victims are children. Boys between the ages of 5 and 9 are the most likely to be victims of these attacks and have bites on their head, face, and neck to show for it.

Furthermore, approximately 2,400 dog attacks occur every day in the US, 100 each hour, or one every 36 seconds.

The most likely place for a dog attack is in the home of the victim; the second most likely place is the home of a friend of the victim. Over 75% of perpetrating attack dogs are owned by the victim’s immediate family, a relative, or a friend of the victim’s family.

Injuries from dog bites are more common for children than injuries from bike accidents, playground injuries, mopeds, skateboards, or ATVs.

Mental Effects

Besides the medical injuries sustained in a dog attack, a victim may experience a mental health injury as a result of the event. For example, the victim of a dog attack may experience a condition called Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or PTSD.

PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) occurs when one experiences or sees a frightening and traumatic event and fails to bounce back from the experience. PTSD may last months or years, during which time memories of the trauma may be triggered resulting in intense emotional distress and unwanted physical reactions. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, avoidance of triggering situations, and depression. Doctors and mental health professionals have developed treatments to manage PTSD in affected patients. These treatments include psychotherapy and medications.

Children are especially vulnerable to experiencing PTSD after a dog attack, although PTSD is not uncommon in adult victims.

Children may not have the vocabulary or opportunity to talk through the experience of a dog attack. If adults become anxious or upset when a child talks about the attack, the child may hesitate to bring it up. The silence may lead to a heavy emotional burden that contributes to PTSD.

Adults should watch for signs of an emotional burden in their children by taking note of the following types of symptoms: nightmares, fear, withdrawal, bed wetting, and new patterns of crying or clinging. PTSD in children can interfere with a child’s development.

After a dog bite, many caregivers focus on the visible medical problems. Caregivers turn their first attention to blood, lacerations, skin punctures, and bruising. It’s not unusual for caregivers to assume that the problematic dog attack is ‘done and dusted’ once the medical injuries are treated and healed.

Personal injury lawyers, however, recognize that the burdens of an injury include more than healing scrapes and broken bones. The intangible burden of pain and suffering often lasts much longer than the hospital stay and continues to accrue bills and lost work for caregivers.

You may be entitled to compensation for mental health treatment after a dog attack, including professional treatment for conditions such as PTSD. Successful compensation would take into account the long-term effects of a traumatic event, the interventions that may be needed to bring a child up to a pre-attack level of functioning and development, and the days off work that a caregiver may need to take to deliver this level of support.

PTSD may result from a dog attack even when visible injuries or blood were not a part of the outcome. You may have a legal case to sue for pain, suffering, and mental trauma, whether or not the medical injuries were severe.

If you have questions about a dog attack, including whether or not your child may receive compensation for conditions such as PTSD, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer today.

At Tingey Injury Law Firm, our Las Vegas dog bite lawyers will offer a free initial consultation to review your unique situation and offer advice about your case. Your child deserves the best chance of achieving a full recovery – in body and mind – from a dog bite attack. We can help relieve your burden by ensuring that you get adequate compensation for your child’s dog bite injuries and that your child receives the aftercare that they need to move beyond any mental health challenges triggered by the attack.