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Consequences of Dog Bites: Scarring, Disfigurement, Nerve Damage and Treatment Options

Jordan W. Peagler, Esq.

June 21, 2024

In both California and the U.S. in general, dog bites are surprisingly common. Whether it be a small bite or a severe bite, dog bites have become a persistent issue. According to the National Vital Statistics System, from 2011 to 2021, there were an average of 43 deaths per year due to dog bites within the United States. But what about the non-fatal injuries caused by dog bites? Dog bites can produce a variety of short-term and long-term injuries. When first bitten by a dog, the dog bites can cause puncture wounds (which can lead to infection), fractures, lacerations, avulsions, and more. In the long term, injuries can prove to be permanent.

There are a variety of different types of scars that can result from a dog bite, and they all warrant different approaches, especially in terms of treatment options:

What are the most common consequences of dog bites?

1. Keloid Scars:

Keloid scars are a cluster of scarred tissue that become larger than the original wound. They result when a scar keeps growing after the injury, and they can be some of the most painful scars to address. Keloid scars are most often identified by the thick and raised tissue they create. They can be lumpy, ridged, smooth, and more. They are also most often red or darker than the original skin. Keloid scars can warrant a myriad of different treatments, ranging from topical to surgical. This means they can take months to years to heal, as they do not go away with time and require treatment to improve.

2. Hypertrophic Scars:

Hypertrophic scars are a more mild form of scarring. These scars are identified by the fact that they stay within the boundaries of the injury, and they are often red and raised. They often, with time, become paler and more flat. Hypertrophic scars can be painful and cosmetically disfiguring, but they are more manageable than keloid scars. Hypertrophic scars often can fade within 6 months to 3 years, and they are often more of a cosmetic issue than a health issue.

3. Atrophic Scars:

Atrophic scars, or as they are sometimes referred to, “depressed scars”, are common in dog bite cases. These scars often appear as sunken or indented areas on the skin. They are often caused by a loss of fat or muscle, and get larger based on the amount of tissue damage that has occurred. These scars can linger for several months to years, but there are many cases where they require different approaches such as lasers in order to effectively diminish them.

4. Contracture Scars:

These scars occur as a result of skin tightening or contracting during the healing process after an injury. They often appear to be shiny and tight, and they are able to prevent or restrict movement after forming. In dog bite cases, they are most common when a large amount of skin surface area has been affected. Contracture scars usually achieve the final way they will appear after 6 to 18 months of healing. While many fade, it is possible that the scar will be permanent without treatment.

5. Nerve Damage

Nerve damage can be a persistent injury that results from dog attacks. Nerve damage can develop as a result of a dog’s teeth puncturing the skin and damaging the nerves underneath. This debilitating injury can manifest itself as chronic pain, muscle weakness or paralysis, permanent numbness, and more.

While these are the different types of scars that can occur from a dog bite, the skin can also retain permanent damage in the form of uneven texture, discoloration due to hyperpigmentation, and more. These problems can also prove to be permanent and require different forms of scar revision treatments in order to fully heal. These treatments can range from topical treatments, such as silicone gel sheets, to injections and laser treatments.

6. Trauma & Anxiety

While the physical attack may last only seconds, the mental and emotional trauma dog bite victims endure can last a lifetime.  Oftentimes, victims develop post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), which can manifest itself in several ways including changes in mood, flashbacks and intrusive thoughts, avoidance behavior, sleep loss amongst others.  Unfortunately, the likelihood of PTSD is greater when the attack involves a child.

 

What are some scar revision or nerve damage treatment options?

 

1. Topical Treatments:

Treatments such as corticosteroid creams, onion extract gels like Mederma, and silicone sheets and gels have been shown to improve scars over time. However, these are more mild treatment options, and they are often used for less severe scars such as hypertrophic scars.

2. Laser or Cryotherapy:

Both laser therapy and cryotherapy have been used to lessen the appearance of scarring. In laser therapy, doctors can use a Pulsed Dye Laser, Fraction CO2 Laser, or Nd Lasers in order to treat scars by reducing redness, pigmentation, and scar texturing. Cryotherapy works similarly, but doctors freeze the scar tissue using liquid nitrogen rather than using the laser. This can also reduce the size and texture of scars, and is particularly effective for keloid scars.

3. Injections:

There are different injections that can be used to lessen the severity of scarring. Corticosteroid injections are often used to treat keloid scars, but they can require multiple sessions. Kenalog (steroid) injections are also very popular in combating scarring. The injections 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) and Bleomycin are injections that are often used for chemotherapy, but they can be used to treat scars as well. Finally, for the treatment of atrophic scars, collagen or fat injections can be used to fill in the missing or damaged tissue.

4. Microabrasion or Dermabrasion:

Also used in tattoo removal or restoration, dermabrasion, and microabrasion exfoliate the top layers of the skin in order to approve the appearance of scar tissue. While dermabrasion is used in a variety of cases, microabrasion is more common in addressing surface-level scars.

5. Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy

Physical therapy and occupational therapy are particularly effective in cases of nerve damage or contracture scars. These treatments involve enlisting the help of a physical therapist to help the receiver usage of skin or muscles that have become damaged due to an injury. These forms of therapy require continued sessions and can take a long time to form results.

6. Surgical Intervention:

Surgery is one of the more aggressive forms of scar treatment, but it is more common in addressing nerve damage. In cases of scarring, excision is one popular surgical technique where doctors reopen scar tissue to create a less prominent scar. Additionally, there are surgical techniques such as skin flaps and Z or W Plasty that are used to align scarring with skin in order to reduce scarring appearances. For nerve damage, techniques such as nerve grafting, nerve repair, and nerve decompression are used to attempt to either recoup nerves that have been lost or fix nerves that have been altered.

7. Regeneration

Different forms of regenerative treatments are sometimes used when attempting to solve nerve damage. Different treatments such as stem cell therapy, used for nerve regeneration, and Platelet-Rich-Plasma, used to speed up the healing of nerves, are becoming more and more common.

 

There are other treatments that can be used as an alternative, such as ointments, pressure therapy, radiation, and more. But in the case of dog bites, these treatments have proved to be some of the most common in addressing any sort of long-term injury caused by dog bites, whether they be minor or severe. No matter what the injury sustained, or treatment warranted, all results from a dog bite are subject to compensation when the dog bite is a result of negligence by a pet owner.

 

Contact MKP Law Group, LLP to Handle Your Dog Bite Claim

Dog bite attacks are painful and stressful experiences that leave victims emotionally and physically scarred. Hiring the experienced and knowledgeable dog bite lawyers at MKP Law Group, LLP will ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.  Contact MKP today to schedule your 100% free consultation and case-evaluation.