The Whole Truth About Pets and Kids

Pets and kids

August in New Mexico is still hot, and my four dogs are still shedding like crazy, challenging us to keep up with brushing, sweeping and vacuuming. But they are family members, just as my kids are family members and no one ever talks about getting rid of the kids because they are too messy. Or at least no one talks about it seriously.

We have four dogs and four kids, so it is an even match. Sometimes I look at a kid/dog pair and wonder who really ‘belongs’ to whom. I’m pretty sure our dog Felix considers our son Ben to belong to him, as well as vice versa.

Having pets and kids brings a lot of extra joy and work to the home, but it can be worth it.

Health Benefits

Did you know that kids who have dogs or cats tend to be healthier than kids who don’t have pets? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids who hang around dogs during infancy are less likely to have respiratory tract infections and ear infections. In addition, the kids with dogs who did get sick from upper respiratory infections or ear infections required shorter treatment times with antibiotics.

Bringing Baby Home to Fido

If you are pregnant and you have a dog or cat already, you may worry about how your furry baby will react to your human baby. The ASPCA offers some tips for the big introduction, including remaining calm when you bring your new baby through the door. Your pets will pick up on your emotions. Try to have a second adult the pet knows and trusts around. Offer your pet treats and allow your pet to sniff and inspect the baby. Make sure you do not leave your baby and pet unsupervised.

Pets to Avoid

Some animals are inherently risky for small children to be around, however. According to kidshealth.org, families with small children should avoid having turtles or other reptiles as pets as they often harbor salmonella, a potentially deadly bacteria. Similarly, ducklings and baby chicks can also bring salmonella into close contact with babies and toddlers. Small rodents, such as mice and hamsters, may bite as well as spread bacteria around the home.

Emotional Benefits

Kids can learn empathy and responsibility from caring for the family pets. As your human and fur babies grow up together, your child can participate in caring for the pet. Helping with grooming, feeding, and, of course, cleaning up after the pets become age appropriate chores. Before you know it, you and your pet will be watching your little one trot off to school.

Let us know your thoughts and personal experiences in the comments section below!

Jennifer Williams
Jennifer Williams is a nurse midwife living and catching babies in New Mexico. She has been caring for birthing women for nearly two decades and is amazed that some of the first babies she helped into the world are now driving. Her personal and professional interests include all areas of pregnancy and birth, infant feeding choices, advocacy for women, birth control, helping adult survivors of abuse relearn how to parent, postpartum depression and placentas, because who doesn't like placentas?

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