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Top 10 Pet Safety Questions

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 24 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Pet Safety Dog Safe Kids Children

While we all enjoy having pets in our lives, we do sometimes worry about safety issues around them, especially when children are involved.

For example, many worry about the transmission of germs and disease from pets to humans; others worry about the chances of injury from pets - and of course, many owners wonder about their pets' habits and whether those are safe activities for them to be allowing their pets to do.

So here are some of the most popular questions asked abut pet safety.

Is it Safe for My Dog to Lick My Child’s Face?

Dogs place their mouths in many unhygienic places, from picking up and eating faecal matter or dead and rotting material, to licking their own anuses to clean themselves. Therefore, their mouths can harbour a lot of bacteria and other infectious organisms which can cause serious illness, especially in young children with weak immune systems.

So it is not really a good idea to allow your dog to lick your face. Having said that, however, many children (and adults) do enjoy regular “kisses” from their canine companions without any adverse effects. In general, though, it is best to discourage children from letting dogs lick their faces and show affection in other ways.

Should I Change My Cat’s Litter Tray if I’m Pregnant?

Cat faeces can harbour the Toxoplasmosis parasite which can cause muscle pain, swollen lymph glands, fever, sore throat and rashes, although healthy adults often show no symptoms at all.

Therefore, it is particularly dangerous to pregnant women who can become infected without realising and then the infection can cause developmental abnormalities in the unborn foetus. Thus, pregnant women are usually advised to avoid handling litter trays if possible during pregnancy and ask another member of the household to change the cat litter. If this is not possible, then gloves should be worn and hands washed thoroughly afterwards.

Can My Kids Pick Up Worms from My Dog or Cat?

Yes, if dogs and cats are not regularly wormed, they can harbour many different intestinal worms without showing any outward symptoms.

Roundworms are particularly common and these worms will then shed eggs which pass out with the faeces. These then contaminate the soil and sand where children play and can easily be ingested by mistake, leading to infection in the organs and in rare cases, even the eyes, possibly resulting in loss of vision. Therefore it is very important to worm all pets regularly according to veterinary advice and to teach all children to wash hands thoroughly after playing with or around pets.

Can I Have a Large Dog if I Have Small Children?

Most people believe that only smaller dog breeds are suitable for families with young children. However, while smaller dogs are generally easier to handle and physically restrain, keep in mind that many of the toy breeds can be quite nervous and snappy around children and therefore may not make the ideal playmate.

Conversely, while large breeds do tend to be boisterous and rough as puppies and may be too overwhelming for young children, if well-trained and socialised, many of them have wonderful, placid temperaments which make them great companions for children. If considering a larger breed for small children, it may be worth looking into adopting a well-socialised, TRAINED adult which will be calmer and more manageable than a young puppy.

Is it Safe for My Dog to Chew Bones?

Bones are generally safe for dogs to chew on providing that they are raw and not cooked, as cooked bones become dry and brittle and can splinter easily. It is also important to choose a size that is appropriate to your dog – a large dog should ideally be given a large bone, to reduce the chance of swallowing pieces whole and choking.

Occasionally, a dog can crack its teeth on bones that are too hard so again, it is important to choose a suitable type of bone for the dog. A Great Dane may be able to manage a large beef marrow bone fine but a Cocker Spaniel may be better off with a softer lamb brisket bone. Bones provide many benefits, from cleaning teeth to satisfying a natural urge.

Should I Let My Cat Outside?

This is really a matter of personal choice. Research and statistics show that cats that are allowed outdoors do live a much shorter life as they are at greater risk of injury and death from traffic accidents, attacks from dogs, fights with other cats or getting stuck in dangerous places. However, cats that are confined indoors all the time may also develop a host of behavioural and psychological issues and suffer from stress, despite living longer in years.

Perhaps a decision can be made based on the cat’s likely environment – for example, if your house is in a cul-de-sac in a quiet residential neighbourhood, away from traffic, then it may not present as many risks as if you live beside a busy main road.

Is it True That Parrots Carry a Deadly Disease?

Parrots (and other birds) do carry two diseases which can infect and cause serious illness in humans, particularly in those with compromised or weaker immune systems (such as young children).

These two diseases are called Cryptococcosis and Parrot Fever (psittacosis) – and they are caused by microorganisms found in infected bird droppings or dust and dander in bird cages. This means that you can inhale these organisms without realising when cleaning the cage or interacting with the bird. For most adults, these infections can cause pneumonia, headaches, coughing and high fever but they can lead to serious complications such as meningitis in those with weakened immune systems. For this reason, it is usually advised that young children do not clean out bird cages or only do so with heavy supervision.

Is it OK for My Kids to Have a Pet Reptile?

Unfortunately, most reptiles do carry the Salmonella bacteria and this can cause serious illness in those with weak immune systems, such as young children. In addition, young children often may not wash hands properly after handling reptiles and may even absent-mindedly put their fingers in their mouths or on their faces while playing with a reptile or touching its enclosure.

For these reasons, reptiles are not really suitable as pets for young children – in fact, with their lack of trainability and interactive ability in many cases, they would probably not make very rewarding pets for young children and are really more suited to a serious enthusiast.

Should I Let My Dog Stick His Head Out the Window While in the Car?

While many people think that their dogs cannot enjoy car rides unless they are able to stick their heads out the window during the ride, this is actually a very unwise thing to let your dog. Veterinarians see countless eye injuries every year from dogs allowed to ride in cars this way who have been hit in the face by objects flying at high speed.

There is also always the danger of your dog becoming over-excited at something he sees and jumping out the window into the traffic. Therefore, it is best not to allow your dog to stick his out of the window while in a moving vehicle – you can open the window enough for him to enjoy the fresh air but keeping the gap small enough to prevent him sticking his head out.

Should I Try to Separate 2 Dogs That are Fighting?

Many dog fights sound and look worse than they actually are and in many cases, it is best to let the dogs sort things out for themselves as there is a very real chance that you can get bitten badly if you try to intervene. Even your own dog may not recognise your voice or hand in the heat of the moment.

However, if you feel that you must separate the dogs, then try to distract them in some way first, such as making a sudden, loud noise, spraying them with water or using an object (eg, a large stick) to come between them. Ideally, you should have help as you will need another person to distract and restrain the other dog once you have pulled them apart.

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