Puppy Scratched Toddlers Face -- 2 Questions

Updated on June 20, 2010
J.R. asks from Washington, DC
12 answers

A neighborhood puppy scratched my 20 month old's face. Fortunately he received only a slight scratch on the top of and above his mouth and it did not bleed. It is red. I spoke to the doctor who said that all is OK etc. But I would appreciate any similar stories or input as to anything I should do or not do re:

1. Helping scratch heal (should I put aquaphor, vaseline? neosporin?)
2. Should I allow my little one to play with know neighborhood puppies? I don't want him to fear dogs, but I don't want him to get hurt (I was bit by a dog on my mouth at age 7 by our neighbor's dog and had over a dozen stiches on my face). I am torn about this one for now and the future.

Thanks in advance for any input, advice, suppott.

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answers from Miami on

Oh Don't keep away from Dogs you'll end up giving him a fear of dogs. As for the scratch as it didnt break the skin and I assume you washed it real good in the beginning and put some neosporin or triple anti on it. Then you are good to go. If you feel the mark is not going away some vitamin E might just keep it from being a scar but since there was no blood probably no need to worry on that account.

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answers from Jacksonville on

Hmmm. How did the scratch happen? Was he trying to hold the puppy? I would think if the puppy was on the ground it would be rather unlikely for him to get scratched on his face.. so maybe, only let him play with puppies when they are on the ground, or some other rule that might limit his odds of another scratch.

Puppies are really squirmy and playful, and if someone is trying to hold them (rather than having them on the ground on a leash or loose in an enclosed area) they can REALLY squirm to get down. I could easily see an accidental scratch happening in a scenario like that. To me, generally speaking, dogs/puppies are not meant to be held. And unless they are a very small breed, I don't really think they like it either. We have a German Shepherd, and the only time I remember picking her up and holding her was when we first brought her home and were house training her (she was very small, like 10-12 weeks old). If she started to "go", we'd scoop her up really fast to get her outside. But even at that age, before we'd go too many steps, she was struggling to get down. They just aren't MADE for holding.
I'm probably WAY off, but if that IS how your son ended up getting a scratch, just make it a rule that he can only pet/play/touch them when they are on the ground. Then, if they don't want the attention or whatever, they can move away, rather than put their feet out...? And hopefully, he won't get any more scratches. The most important thing you can do regarding dogs, is teach your child the "rules". He is really young to learn and remember them, but you can remind him each time he encounters a dog...
Things like: Do not stare at their eyes (is perceived as aggression/challenge by the dog); always ask permission from the owner before giving attention to the dog (this is just good courtesy to ask permission to handle someone's things, but also, not all dogs are properly socialized and are safe- but your son doesn't need to be told the last part right now.. just 'good manners'); never reach up OVER the dogs head to pet him on top of the head (normal thing people do!), but instead, have your hand turned palm up to rub them under the chin/neck area (this is much less threatening to the dog and they like it much better); always wait until the dog is calm before showing it attention/affection (this is a dog training tool that reinforces being calm rather than rewarding overexcitement, but also cuts down on accident scratches from overexcitement).

Sorry your little guy got scratched, but glad it is small and will heal quickly. A little neosporin on the part above his lip once a day for a couple of days will probably help that along (but not on his actual lip where he might lick it off). Sorry too, about the incident you had as a child and the stitches. I've never been injured by a dog, but it would be a very frightening thing. If you take care to teach your son proper "dog etiquette", it can help him avoid anything happening in the future. I believe that 90% (this is not a statistic, just MY opinion) of child injuries by dogs could be avoided if the child involved had used proper dog etiquette. Kids are naturally drawn to animals and want to play with them. If they are not taught HOW to do so safely, bad things can happen quickly.

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answers from Chicago on

If needed, I think Neosporin would be fine, but if it's not an open wound, I wouldn't put anything on it. It'll heal on it's own quickly.

For the dogs, my parent's dog mauled my son when he was 6 weeks old. ER, cat scan, stitches, extensive bruising, all of that. I was sitting 2 ft away from him when it happened. I just never thought the dog would attack, but in hindsight, it was a quirky dog, and I wasn't paying proper attention. It was just *that* quick. That said, my son has no aversion to dogs. It was ME that had to get over it.

I tend to hover, when dogs are around, and I watch him very carefully. I also watch/talk to the dog owner to make sure that the animal is friendly and familiar with kids, and predictable. If they are agressive or barking at him, I don't let them near him.

He's happy as a clam and is very curious. I really don't want him to be afraid of dogs, so I try to hide my anxiety when they're around. It's hard to do. But if you want him to feel comfortable with them, you have to continue to let him around them. Just watch very closely, and always stay within range of grabbing him while he's little. That's what I do.

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answers from Norfolk on

A little Neosporin is great for healing scratches quickly. How big is the puppy? A big rambunctious 6 month old lab might be over powering for a toddler, but a chihuahua or a cockapoo would be in more danger from your toddler than the other way around. Young kids pretty much think of animals being animated stuffed toys and don't realize pulling fur, ears, and tails hurts. A young animal doesn't always know it's own strength either. Close supervision to make sure everyone is playing gently is required. The minute it gets too rough, pick up your child and separate him from from the animal.

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answers from Minneapolis on

It's hard to keep anything on a 20 month old's face but yes, neosporin or aquaphor will likely help it. As for the puppy...any child should be supervised around a puppy. Like one writer said, both the child and the puppy are too young to know any better so while that puppy can get too excited with your child, your child could very well instigate it as well. There are so many dogs around these days you don't want your child to fear them. You just need to check with the owner and make sure a dog is friendly and/or used to kids. It drives me crazy when I see kids scared of my dog who absolutley loves kids and people. Usually I find it is the parents who made them that way too, so your child will feed off that fear if it is there. I don't know what your situation was but I just say to always be aware of what is going on.

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answers from Austin on

A friend of mine who is a pediatric surgeon said that dog bites are the worst cases she receives for toddlers and babies because their skin is so soft and the tissue is so easily damaged. Plus LOs are usually crawling or walking at the same height as most dogs so most bites are in the face. My daughter was bitten by my friend’s dog in the face when she was 1 – we were sharing a nanny and I thought both the Nanny and my friend had discussed that the dogs would not be in the house when she was there even thought she had never had problems with the dogs biting children.

Unfortunately or fortunately they cannot do stitches on dog bites as the stitches cause more problems with infection and apparently infection is guaranteed with dog bites. I had to give her liquid antibiotics and rub antibiotic cream in her bite area for two weeks. A year later she has a little scar about an inch from her eye. What did I learn? No matter how much you know a dog, you are truly taking a chance of having your LO bitten and usually in the face if you don’t pay 100% attention to them when dogs are around. I didn’t keep my daughter away from dogs before or after the incident, but I always make sure that I am right next to my daughter when we play with dogs, even ones we know. At any point if the dog acts like they are done, I make sure to distract her with something else.

I know your LO was only scratched but I just wanted to let you know, dog bites are very common especially among family/friend’s dogs and they really can tear up your LO especially when they are young. As your LO gets bigger it's not quite as bad.

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answers from Indianapolis on

If there's no scratch (as you mention in your message), there's no reason for Neosporin. Without a scratch, you really don't have much of a concern about infection. Dog's claws tend not to retain harmful bacteria like cat's do (e.g. Cat Scratch Fever) - so, the risk of infection would be more environmental from other bacteria/viruses invading the area than from the dog's scratch itself.

However, if you're wanting to address the redness (again, not a concern regarding scarring without a tear in the skin), anything that keeps the skin moisturized should help.

The biggest issue is the fear. A puppy is learning to interact as much as your child. It's a good learning lesson for everyone. We had to speak with an animal behaviorist a few times after our son's 1st birthday. We'd had our dog almost 5 years when our son was born without behavior issues. But, dogs are pack animals and are always trying to establish and maintain their place in the pack.

The fear is likely greater on your end because of your experience as a child. I'd encourage her to spend more time with dogs in general. And, I'd make sure to be there when she's dealing with the puppy to see how the puppy's family is training it. Dogs, like kids, have their own personalities, but by nature, they want to please their alphas. The real problems are when families just don't take the time to work with the dog to learn good, acceptable behavior such as biting, jumping up on people, scratching, etc.

Hoping all wounds (emotional and physical) heal soon.

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answers from Miami on

My son has had a few run in's with our own dog. They have, lets say, a love hate relationship. The scratches that he has received I have treated with peroxide to clean the wound and followed up for 2 or 3 days with an antibiotic ointment. I use Bacitracin, neosporin has a tendancy to sometimes develop further irritation (especially on the face) after overuse. And I don't think that it's a real issue with playing with neighborhood puppies, but you do have to remember they are puppies and should be supervised with caution.

Good luck!

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answers from Denver on

Puppies and toddlers are not a good mix! They are both innocent babies who don't know how to be gentle and respectful enough of the other. I guess it is ok with LOTS of supervision. Like literally holding your child while he pets the puppy but I wouldn't let my toddler romp around with a puppy. Socialization is great both ways but lots of kids have been traumatized by being bitten and lots of dogs have been traumatized by being handled roughly by children. Puppies play with each other by biting, nipping and jumping on each other. If they do they same to a child it is meant in fun but could really hurt--as you know. And kids tend to want to treat puppies like stuffed animals and pull tails and ears or carry them around. From someone who has had both puppies and kids, I think they are a lot alike but instead of making them ideal playmates it means they both need LOTS of supervision around each other. :) Good luck.

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answers from Tampa on

A very thin layer of Honey spread over the scratch will help it heal nicely. Honey is a natural antiseptic. We had a motorcycle accident and wore quite a bit of road rash, our holistic Dr recommended this method and it worked wonders!! No scars or anthing

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answers from Gainesville on

my daughter got scratched by our cat doctor told us not to use poroxide it only keeps it open for infection use some neosporin or something natural incase he gets a little in his mouth or some nice liquid bandaid something to cover it from germs he will be just fine..it will heal.just dont let him pick it even if it didnt bleed you dont want picking or it could cause it to get worse.but it will be ok..good luck and god bless you

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answers from Tampa on

In response to question 2 - I usually have my 2 year old not touch a strange pet unless she asks the owner permission to touch the animal. A really good habit to get into. This way the child will know to only touch an animal when the owner is around & helps prevent the child from touching a stray.
I hope your little one soon forgets his negative encounter with the puppy. :)

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