Real Housewives Kim Zolciak-Biermann’s Son Treated for Severe Dog Bite

It’s a parent’s nightmare. Real Housewife of Atlanta Kim Zolciak-Biermann‘s four year old son, Kash, was severely bitten by a dog Saturday night. The injuries, although not specified, were severe enough to require two hours of surgery and Kash will spend a few days in the hospital. Kim took to Instagram to report the incident:

“I don’t know where to start. The last 14hrs of our lives has been a living nightmare. My sweet @kashbiermann was bit by a dog and had very traumatic injuries. I’ve never prayed so hard, or been so scared in my life. My husband, our daughters, Kj, Tracey, his nanny, Michael Beck and everyone close to us all pulled together and held each other up. Kash was in the operating room for a couple hours and now we are praying for a quick speedy recovery. Due to this I will not be on WWHL tonight but will do my best to make it up very soon! Thank you for all your prayers and most importantly Thank you God for your protection. A very special Thank you to my incredible medical team! A few days in the hospital and we will be back home.”

Less than two years ago, Kim had to undergo surgery to repair a heart condition called patent foramen ovale. It was discovered after she suffered a “mini-stroke” while she was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.

Dog bites are no laughing matter.

According to the CDC:

  • About 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year.
  • Almost one in five of those who are bitten: a total of 885,000: require medical attention for dog bite-related injuries.
  • In 2006, more than 31,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of being bitten by dogs.

Who is at highest risk?

  • Children: Among children, the rate of dog bite–related injuries is highest for those ages 5 to 9 years, and children are more likely than adults to receive medical attention for dog bites than adults. Recent research shows that the rate of dog–bite related injuries among children seems to be decreasing.
  • Adult Males: Among adults, males are more likely than females to be bitten.
  • People with dogs in their homes: Among children and adults, having a dog in the household is associated with a higher incidence of dog bites. As the number of dogs in the home increases, so does the incidence of dog bites. Adults with two or more dogs in the household are five times more likely to be bitten than those living without dogs at home.

Only 15 to 20 percent of dog bite wounds become infected. Crush injuries, puncture wounds and hand wounds are more likely to become infected than scratches or tears. Many different kinds of germs are present with Pasteurella multocida and Staphylococcus aureus being the most common.

“Is a dog’s mouth cleaner than a human’s?”

This is a commonly heard statement. Is there any truth to it? Well, no, but it’s a qualified no. A dog’s mouth is full of germs- remember they are not especially particular about what they put in their mouths, and that their tongue is both their washcloth and toilet paper. It is NOT sterile- as the urban legend sometimes implies.

So where does the idea that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s come from? Ironically, probably from the medical literature, which had shown a higher incidence of infections after human bites than after dog bites. However, recently these studies have come under attack, saying that the original studies did not differentiate the type and location of the bite, especially those called “closed-fist injuries” — the type of hand-wound suffered by a human being who slugs another human being in the mouth.

A review article in the Journal of the American Academy of  Dermatology states: “Human bite wounds have long had a bad reputation for severe infection and frequent complication. However, recent data demonstrate that human bites occurring anywhere other than the hand present no more of a risk for infection than any other type of mammalian bite. ”

This doesn’t even take into the account the fact that dogs, unlike humans, can spread rabies. Fortunately, most pets are immunized against rabies, decreasing the risk of rabies in this country.

Preventing dog bites

Basic safety tips

Do:

  • Remain motionless (e.g., “be still like a tree”) when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
  • Curl into a ball with your head tucked and your hands over your ears and neck if a dog knocks you over.
  • Immediately let an adult know about stray dogs or dogs that are behaving strangely.

Don’t:

  • Approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Run from a dog.
  • Panic or make loud noises.
  • Disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
  • Encourage your dog to play aggressively.
  • Let small children play with a dog unsupervised.
Person halts before approaching an unknown dog

What do you do if an unfamiliar dog approaches you and you do not want to interact with a dog?

  • Stop! Stay still and be calm.
  • Do not panic or make loud noises.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with the dog.
  • Say “No” or “Go Home” in a firm, deep voice.
  • Stand with the side of your body facing the dog. Facing a dog directly can appear aggressive to the dog. Instead, keep your body turned partially or completely to the side.
  • Slowly raise your hands to your neck, with your elbows in.
  • Wait for the dog to pass or slowly back away.
Boy being attacked by dog

What if you get bitten or attacked by a dog?

  • Put your purse, bag, or jacket between you and the dog to protect yourself.
  • If you are knocked down, curl into a ball with your head tucked in and your hands over your ears and neck.
  • When you get to a safe place, immediately wash wounds with soap and water. Seek medical attention, especially if:
    • the wound is serious (uncontrolled bleeding, loss of function, extreme pain, muscle or bone exposure, etc.).
    • the wound becomes red, painful, warm, or swollen, or if you develop a fever.
    •  it has been more than 5 years since your last tetanus shot and the bite is deep.
  • Because anyone who is bitten by a dog is at risk of getting rabies, consider contacting your local animal control agency or police department to report the incident, especially if :
    • you don’t know if the dog has been vaccinated against rabies.
    • the dog appears sick or is acting strangely.
  • If possible, contact the owner and ensure the animal has a current rabies vaccination. You will need the rabies vaccine license number, name of the veterinarian who administered the vaccine, and the owner’s name, address, and phone number.

Minor wounds

  • Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Apply an antibiotic cream.
  • Cover the wound with a clean bandage.
  • See a healthcare provider if the wound becomes red, painful, warm, or swollen; if you develop a fever; or if the dog that bit you was acting strangely.

Deep wounds

  • Apply pressure with a clean, dry cloth to stop the bleeding.
  • If you cannot stop the bleeding or you feel faint or weak, call 911 or your local emergency medical services immediately.
  • See a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

See a healthcare provider immediately

  • If wounds appear infected (red, painful, warm, or swollen).
  • If you do not know the dog or if the dog does not have a current rabies vaccination certificate, because you might need treatment to prevent rabies.

Source: Centers for Disease Control

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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