Home Mental Health & Well-Being The Emotional Effects of Dog Bites on Children

The Emotional Effects of Dog Bites on Children

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To many children, dogs are cute and cuddly animals to play with and love. They don’t always think they’ll come to harm when interacting with an animal as common and familiar as a dog. 

But not all dogs are child-friendly.  Some dogs can bite when they feel scared, anxious, or protective. Dog bites can be traumatic for children, sometimes resulting in these emotional effects: 

Low self-esteem

Many law firms see dog bite accident victims who experience low self-esteem as one of the many effects of their bite. When a severe bite injury results in scarring and disfigurement, children can feel self-conscious about how they look. They may feel uncomfortable meeting new people or even being out in public. Low self-esteem can sometimes take a great deal of effort and therapy to rectify. 

Intense fear of dogs

Many children begin to associate dogs with pain and fear after receiving a dog bite. This can sometimes mean that any dog, regardless of its size or breed, is something to fear. An intense fear of dogs can be debilitating. It can stop you from being able to enjoy public spaces like parks and beaches, knowing dog owners regularly frequent such areas. Fortunately, many children and adults experience success in reducing their fears through cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy. 

General emotional distress

As children are generally more vulnerable and smaller than adults, dog bites can often take a more significant toll on their emotional well-being than they would on adults. Children occasionally experience a wide range of symptoms following a dog bite that are equivalent to general emotional distress.

They can experience fear, anger, and bouts of crying. Many children encounter sleep disturbances, bed wetting, and nightmares. It’s also not uncommon for them to cling more to their parents or other adults and withdraw from the things and experiences they usually love.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

While we commonly associate PTSD with veterans, it can be a common mental health condition affecting anyone who has experienced a traumatic or highly stressful event. Children are no exception to the rule. They can experience many PTSD symptoms after something as traumatic and life-changing as a dog bite. Common PTSD symptoms can include: 

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Avoiding reminders
  • Less interest in activities they enjoyed
  • A negative outlook on life
  • Reduced emotional range
  • Anger and irritability 
  • Fear and sadness
  • Concentration problems

Anxiety

A dog bite attack may contribute to heightened or new anxiety in children. This anxiety may only relate to dogs and environments where dogs are present. However, it can also escalate to a fear of being outside, where dogs have the potential to be. 

For many children, this extreme anxiety can stop them from enjoying their childhood. They may not be as eager to visit parks, go to the beach, or simply spend time outside with their friends. 

Takeaway

Dog attacks are traumatic because of the injuries they cause. But the mental and emotional effects can be just as traumatic. Low self-esteem, anxiety, a fear of dogs, PTSD, and emotional distress are just a few of the many things children can experience after a severe dog bite.




Samantha Green, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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