Dealing with Psychological Stress After a Dog Bite Injury

dog bite
aggresive dog barking

Connor never had a dog. Every year, for his birthday and Christmas, Connor would ask for a dog. Unfortunately, his birthday and Christmas wishes remained ungranted. Growing up with three brothers and sisters, his mom and dad said that having a dog would just be “too much.” Of course, at a younger age, this answer didn’t necessarily make sense to him. They had a big backyard, and they had a fence that could keep the dog enclosed. Why couldn’t they get a dog?

Naturally, Connor’s obsession with the idea of a dog made him notice them everywhere. He would hear them barking in the distance while he was outside playing. He could see neighbors out walking their dogs in front of their house. Dogs seemed to be everywhere.

One day, Connor was shooting a basketball on their hoop in their driveway when he saw their neighbor out walking their dog. Not being able to curtail his love for dogs, Connor ran toward the dog to pet it. Before the owner could do anything, the dog reared and struck, biting Connor on the arm.

Although we changed Connor’s name for the sake of privacy, Connor’s story is true, and it is devastating. Since his dog bite incident, Connor has suffered from a form of Cynophobia or a fear of dogs. Following Connor’s bite, whenever he has seen a dog, he suffers an extreme sense of fear. His palms become sweaty, and his breathing becomes short and panicked. Even small dogs cause an acute sense of worry and anxiety.

Fortunately, Connor’s bodily injury wasn’t too serious. While the dog did manage to break the skin, the neighbor was able to inform Connor’s mother that the dog was up to date on all of its vaccinations. Connor’s doctor was also able to certify that the dog bite was not deep enough to damage muscles, tendons, nerves, and bones.

How to Deal With the Stress After a Dog Bite


Being the victim of a dog bite can be both physically and emotionally serious. Bodily injuries can range from minor to serious. Some serious deep wounds can require reconstructive surgery and other extensive measures. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 4.5 million dog bites happen every year in the United States. Of those, one in five becomes infected and redog bite injuryquires medical attention. A large portion of these victims is children.

Similarly, the mental and emotional damage that can be caused by a dog bite can be immense. According to a CNN iReport, some of the emotional impact after a serious dog bite can include anxiety, nightmares, fear of dogs, agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other problems. Additionally, the CNN iReport specifically identifies dog bites to children as among the most severe. The article describes, “[s]ince a child’s mind is not developed the way an adult’s mind has matured, mental anguish from a dog bite can change a child’s personality and last well into adulthood.” This mental anguish was certainly the case with Connor.

If you or someone you love has been affected by a dog bite and is still suffering emotional burdens because of the incident, consider speaking with a medical professional. A qualified medical professional will be able to gauge the level of trauma and give a specific recommendation of what to do. For traumatic incidents with accompanying phobias and anxiety, the Mayo Clinic recommends psychotherapy as a possible option. Psychotherapy could include exposure therapy which “focuses on changing your response to the object or situation that you fear.” Another possible recommended treatment could be cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which involves “exposure combined with other techniques to learn ways to view and cope with the feared object or situation differently.” Sometimes people’s anxiety and worry necessitate medication where psychotherapy is not successful.

When you or someone you love has suffered a dog bite injury, knowing what options are available can be important. Fortunately, Connor was able to receive the help he needed to cope after this difficult situation. For dog bite victims, getting the help you need after a dog bite injury can be vital to your psychological well-being. It can improve your state of mind and help you live a richer and fuller life, unbound by the past trauma of your dog bite injury.

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