Dog bites are a serious public health issue, but many are preventable, experts say.
About 4.7 million Americans -- more than half of them children -- suffer dog bites each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Even the friendliest dog may bite when startled or surprised. Be cautious; once a child is scarred they are scarred for life," said Dr. Gregory Evans, president of the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery.
"Most children love dogs and like to put their faces up close to the dog's face. Parents should never permit this. Injuries to the face and hands can be disfiguring or disabling and require prompt, expert medical attention," Evans said in a society news release.
Two-thirds of dog bites among children occur to the head and neck, and often require plastic surgery, according to the news release.
Last year alone, about 28,500 reconstructive surgeries were done to repair damage from dog bites -- a 6 percent increase over 2013, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Educating children and adults about how to handle, train and treat dogs can guard against these injuries, says the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery, which has joined with the American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups to highlight the issue of dog bites.