Growing up with a pet holds fond memories for many of us, and if you’re raising your own two and four-legged family, congratulations! Having a pet in the home is a wonderful experience for most children, and the benefits can be quite profound. Living with pets can promote empathy, compassion, self-esteem, nurturing skills, and a sense of responsibility.
Yet, while kids and pets make the cutest of buddies, it’s surprisingly easy for one or both of them to become injured by the other. To keep everyone safe, special care should be taken to teach a child the right ways to interact with a furry friend. With these tips from the staff at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center, you can better ensure that both your animal and human kids are safe and happy.
Kids and Pets
Having a family pet is the perfect way to cultivate a sense of kindness and respect for animals. Having a solid understanding of what pets need and want can also help pave the way for a lifetime of rewarding experiences with furry companions.
Teach your kids the basics when it comes to interacting safely with family pets and pets belonging to other people:
- Do not approach or startle a pet while it’s eating, sleeping, chewing on a toy, or caring for its young.
- Never run up to pet an unfamiliar pet, as this can trigger an aggressive response or a bite, even from a pet that is friendly.
- Always ask an adult for permission before petting an unfamiliar pet. If the adult says it’s ok, the child may carefully extend a hand, palm up, toward the animal’s nose for sniffing (never reach out suddenly to touch the nose, face, ears, or head). Remember, ANY pet can bite or behave aggressively, even if the adult has never seen their pet behave this way before. It’s a good rule of thumb to teach your kids this concept and to apply it to all pets.
- Stay away from animal feces, as any contact can expose a child to disease and parasites.
Never leave a young child unsupervised with an animal. Accidents can and do happen, even with trustworthy, familiar pets, and serious injuries can occur in the blink of an eye! Use a secure baby gate or crate when necessary to keep a pet and child separated.
Each year, roughly 400,000 kids seek medical attention for dog bites, and about 80% of those bites are from dogs they know. A dog may bite a child because it is being hurt, is frightened, or is protecting its food, toys, or bed.
Understanding a dog’s body language is also key to avoiding a dangerous encounter:
- Teach your children to never approach a dog that’s growling, baring its teeth, has its ears flattened, or has fur on its back standing up on end.
- Children should understand the concept of “gentle touches” when it comes to petting or playing with dogs. They should not engage in ear or tail-pulling, jumping or laying on a dog, or any other rough-housing that could result in an injury, a bite or other aggressive response.
- Certain dogs should never be approached, such as service dogs or dogs wearing a red bandana/collar and leash. Service dogs are working dogs and should be left alone so they can do their jobs. A red bandana on a dog is often used as a signal that the dog is over-reactive, aggressive, or fearful and should not be approached by anyone.
If you’re concerned about your dog’s behavior around children, consider enrolling your dog in our Canine Academy. We offer classes for dogs of all ages and breeds, and our certified professional dog trainer has over 20 years of experience working with dogs in a humane and fun-loving manner.
Unlike dogs, cats tend to run away when a child is bothering them, but if cornered, they can and will lash out. Teach your child not to pick up a cat, but rather pet it gently on the sides or behind the ears. If a cat is flashing its tail back and forth, hissing, or has ears flattened against its head, it is about to scratch or bite, so your child should leave it alone.
If your child is bitten or scratched by a cat, wash the area well with soap and water. A cat bite can transmit harmful bacteria, so call your pediatrician if a bite punctures the skin. For scratches, watch for signs of infection or inflammation for the next several days, and have your child seen by a medical professional if there is any swelling or redness around the site of the injury. This applies to a dog bite, as well.
Lastly, make sure your pet receives regular veterinary care and is current on all vaccinations and parasite protection. This helps keep everyone in the family both safe and healthy. For further questions about kids and pets, please don’t hesitate to contact the team at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center.