Many parents-to-be spend months preparing for a new baby. For pet parents, this preparation often includes encouraging appropriate and positive behaviors in their animals prior to birth.
However, even with proper preparation, there are still important precautions that owners should observe after their new arrival arrives to help keep pets and children safe.
Dr. Lori Teller, associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University, advises new parents to approach introducing pets and babies with caution, even if they trust their pet will be gentle.
“The most important thing to remember is that a baby and a pet should never be left alone together, even if you think your pet would never harm anyone,” she said. “This cannot be overstated.”
Initial introduction can be facilitated by accustoming pets to the baby’s smell before bringing the newborn home.
“When the baby is born, have someone take home some of the clothes or blankets the baby uses in the hospital so the pets can smell before the baby is discharged,” Teller said.
When the baby is brought home, Teller recommends that new parents bring a backup to ensure that both the baby and pet are monitored consistently.
“If possible, have someone else hold the baby while the parents look after the pets,” she said. “Encourage them to be calm as you greet them. Once everyone is calm, it’s time to introduce your pets to the baby. If necessary, keep your pets on a leash. One person can sit while holding the baby and another person can control the pets. “
If you have several pets, Teller recommends presenting them to the baby one at a time.
After the initial introduction, pet owners still need to be vigilant in monitoring animal interactions with their child. Teller says owners should also actively work to maintain a positive pet and baby relationship.
“It is important to find a way to give your pet attention while your baby is awake and active. You want your pet to know that the baby is part of the family and can spend quality time together,” she said. “You can toss some treats or verbally praise your pet for behavior around an active baby. By only paying attention to your pet while it is sleeping, you are unknowingly teaching your pet that the baby is negative in the pet’s life . “
Pet owners should be aware that changes in their home environment can pose a threat to their animals.
Some baby items, such as pacifiers, baby bottle nipples, and small toys, can be swallowed by dogs and may require surgery to remove them. Many drugs, such as B. Diaper rash ointment can be toxic to pets and should be kept in a safe place.
Teller also recommends that owners keep their pet away from dirty diapers.
“Pet supplies should also be kept away from a baby,” Teller said. “This includes drugs such as heartworm, flea and tick prevention. Dog toys and chewing bones are also not suitable for a baby to put in their mouths. When bathing your dog with a medicated shampoo, make sure your dog is dry before interacting with the baby. “
Pets can also pose a threat to a new baby as it is inherently difficult at times to predict animal behavior. Even if a pet owner fully trusts their furry friend to be gentle, the unfamiliar presence of a baby could make the pet nervous.
“An owner needs to be concerned if the pet growls, hisses, or otherwise tries to interact with the baby in negative ways,” she said. “Any kind of negative interaction should be stopped immediately. If your pet is acting aggressively it should be isolated and you will need to speak to your veterinarian. “
Ensuring the safety of a newborn is a top priority for every new parent. By taking proper precautions, a safe and positive relationship can be established between the newborn and existing pets.
“It is tremendously sweet and beautiful to watch a child and a pet develop a mutually caring and loving relationship,” said Teller. “Make sure your pet is encouraged and rewarded for good behavior. As your baby grows, make sure they also understand how to treat a pet kindly – without pulling their ears and tails or trying to take a pet’s food or toy. Also, reward your child’s good behavior. “