A bad dog bite can cause both internal and external injuries. Internal injuries heal out of sight, but external injuries may leave a scar behind as they heal.
Not all scars heal in the same way. Due to the shape of a dog’s mouth and teeth, a scar from a dog bite is often irregularly-shaped. The scar may have jagged edges, create pitting of the skin, or vary in color even along the same area.
As a result, dog bite scars can be challenging to hide. You may face awkward questions about a scar even years after the event – an event you may wish to forget. Facial scars from dog bites can be challenging to live with. Unfortunately, facial scars are among the most common types of dog bite scars that children experience.
If you’re healing from a dog bite or living with scars, talk to an experienced injury lawyer. Your lawyer can answer your questions and explain how the law applies to your situation.
How Do Scars Form After a Serious Dog Bite?
Your skin is one of your body’s most important protection against infection and illness. When your skin is injured, your body leaps to repair damaged skin and close any openings. As your body builds new tissue to fix the damage, scars form.
Scar tissue is made mainly of collagen, one of the most common proteins in the human body. The body uses collagen to build many tissues, including tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. The bones, muscles, and skin also contain collagen, which helps these tissues stay resilient.
Scars form as part of the healing process. At first, a scar may appear as a pink, red, or dark area. Over time, the scar’s color may change, becoming darker or lighter than the skin around it. Spots may be itchy or painful to the touch.
Factors that can affect how a scar develops include:
- The cause of the scar;
- How large or severe the wound is;
- Where the wound – and the eventual scar – are located;
- How the injury was treated; and
- The injured person’s age, skin tone, ethnicity, and overall health.
Scars may form in many shapes and sizes. Some scars are barely noticeable. Others are impossible to ignore. A scar may be brutal to live with when it is large, unsightly, or impairs movement.
The Most Common Types of Dog Bite Scars
Depending on the scar’s features, medical professionals have different names for different types of scars. Other types of scars may affect your physical and emotional health and may be treated differently.
A fine-line scar may also be known as a “flat” scar. At first, a newly-forming fine-line scar may seem to poke out from the skin a bit. As the scar heals, it lays flat. Over time, the scar may become lighter or darker than the surrounding skin.
Many people have fine-line scars from scratches and other everyday injuries. Many surgical scars would turn into fine-line spots, especially if they were well-treated during the healing process. Often, people with these scars may not even think about them. Yet even fine-line scars can cause emotional distress or physical pain and difficulty.
Keloid scars stick out from the skin’s surface. They often expand beyond the site of the original injury. As a result of overgrown scar tissue, a keloid may get quite large. Keloids can affect movement if they interfere with joints or the skin’s ability to move and stretch as the body moves. They can also cause mental and emotional distress, especially if they are easy to see.
While every human being may experience scarring, some scar types are more common in some population groups than others. For example, people of African descent and red hair are more likely to experience keloid scarring than other population groups. As with any scarring, however, keloids may occur no matter your ancestry.
A hypertrophic scar is also known as a “raised” scar. Like a keloid scar, a hypertrophic scar sticks out from the skin. It may stick out a lot, or it may hardly be noticeable.
Hypertrophic scars differ from keloids in two ways. First, unlike a keloid, a hypertrophic scar often gets flattered over time – although they never entirely even out. Second, a keloid spreads beyond the initial injury site, but a hypertrophic scar does not.
Also known as “depressed” or “atrophic” scars, these scars look like little pits or holes in the skin. Most people with pitted scars experience them from chickenpox or acne. Dog bites also cause pitted or sunken scars in some cases.
Many types of scars seem to fade over time. Depressed or atrophic scars, however, can worsen over time. As the skin ages, it loses collagen and elasticity. This loss can make pitted or sunken scars appear more prominent and more profound than before.
A contracture occurs when the skin tightens as part of the scarring process. Contractures are joint after a burn but can also occur with other types of scars.
Scar contractures may tighten the skin so much that it becomes hard to move. A deep scar contracture that extends into the muscles or nerves can impair movement. A contracture over a joint, such as a knuckle, elbow, or knee, may make exercise difficult or painful.
Living With Dog Bite Scars After a Recent Dog Attack
The experience of living with scars is as varied as the types, sizes, shapes, and locations of scars worldwide. However, people who suffer a dog bite attack often share similar stories and experiences about living with their scars.
Immediately after the dog bite, you must care for the injury. The first step is always to seek medical attention. A doctor will often send a dog bite patient home with instructions for taking care of the injury site. These instructions may include information on how to reduce the appearance of scarring, such as using moisturizers.
A dog bite may take up to a year to heal fully. This year can be a frustrating time. The appearance of your scars may change more than once. You may wonder what the final result will look like. You may be angry or sad that the scar exists to remind you of an event you wish had never happened. You may use clothing or makeup to hide scars from nosy onlookers in public – but you always live with the reminder of what happened as a part of your body.
When dog bites scars cause physical, mental, or emotional complications, your doctor may recommend one or more treatments depending on your needs. Common treatments for dog bite scar complications include:
- Early Treatment. It will help reduce the appearance of scars. Treatments are recommended for effective scar healing. It may include using antibiotics to prevent infection, so your body can focus on building new collagen effectively. It may also involve using creams or other products to promote scar healing.
- Medication. Prescriptions for over-the-counter antibiotics, ointments, and creams may be used to reduce the size of keloid or hypertrophic scars. While a scar may remain, it may be less noticeable.
- Dermabrasion or Laser Resurfacing. Cosmetic procedures may treat some scars, including hypertrophic scars and scars with a rough or uneven surface. The treatment attempts to level the scar’s surface to make it less noticeable. Some people who receive dermabrasion or laser resurfacing find that the treatment makes it easier to hide the scar with makeup.
- Corrective Surgery. When scars impair your ability to move, surgery may help free up tight or overgrown tissue so that you can move more quickly. Cosmetic surgery may also be an option for some unsightly scars. The benefits of surgery, however, should always be weighed against the risks.
- Working with a Therapist. Talking to a licensed professional may help you process your feelings about the attack and the resulting scar. A therapist can be beneficial if you feel you have no one else you can talk to. Therapy is confidential, and a qualified therapist will work with you to listen and make a plan moving forward. While treatment won’t change the scar, it may help you regain your mental and emotional well-being.
Many products on the health and beauty market today are marketed as solutions for scarring. Some of these products may seem promising. It is vital, however, to ask questions and think critically when choosing skincare products for scars. Your doctor’s office may be able to provide advice.
When To Seek Help For Your Dog Attack Incident
After a dog bite attack, you may feel severely shaken. Even after an injury has healed, you may experience both physical and emotional pain from scarring. Looking at the scar may feel like the last thing you want to do.
If you’re dealing with the aftereffects of a dog bite for yourself or with a loved one, don’t hesitate to talk to an attorney with experience helping dog bite injury victims. Your lawyer can help you understand how the law applies to your situation. With your lawyer’s help, you can make the right decision to help you and your family move forward.