Responsibility Saves Lives

Pets are good – duh!

Endless benefits come with owning a pet, especially for children! In fact, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry states that pet ownership positively affects children’s physical, mental, and social-emotional health. Of course, the benefits can only shine through when responsible pet ownership is a top priority. While talking about the wonderful parts of having a fuzzy friend is more fun, it’s important to discuss the consequences of ignoring prevention, recommendations, and warning signs. 

The scary stuff

The Humane Society of the United States has some not-so-great news… the majority of dog bite victims are children, with about 2 million being bitten by dogs yearly. Of those bites, 60% happen at home with a family dog. While dogs without proper training and socialization can be culprits, 50% of dog bites were from being provoked in one way or another. Regardless of how friendly, tolerant, or well-trained your pet may be, a line can be crossed to incite a biting/attacking incident – this goes for dogs and cats. While we tend to think more about dog attacks, bites and scratches from cats can result in cat scratch fever, an infection of the lymph nodes. Cat scratch fever is more common in kids than adults and is caused by cat scratches and bites. 

So let’s prevent the scary stuff

While we’ve all wished to speak to our pets, our beloved animals communicate with us in many ways! Oddly, some behaviors we may think are cute can actually be warning signs of stress. If ignored, warning signs can result in bites or attacks. There are many signs, but here are some of the most common in dogs and cats: 

– Excessive licking        – Vocal cues (whining, growling, hissing)         – Fur raised          

– Crouching or stiff        – Fixed staring/Avoiding eye contact             – Pinned ears

While some of these warning signs of stress/attack have to be discerned, there are clear boundaries that should NOT be crossed with pets, no matter how friendly or gentle your pet’s history is. Typically, children under 4 haven’t yet fully developed impulse control and must always be monitored around a pet. It is vital to reinforce positive and safe interactions. Interactions that should not be allowed with any exceptions are grabbing, pulling, jumping on, riding, pinching, face against face, any interactions while eating, and wrestling. This is not an exhaustive list but use your best judgment. If an interaction could be pestering, bothering, or upsetting, it must be stopped immediately. If your pet is trying to leave a situation, let them. 

Protect your pets

If you notice aggressive behaviors in your pet or an irregular change in temperament, please consult your vet, as this can indicate a greater issue. Whether or not a greater issue is at play, they can recommend behavioral training or resources to fit various financial needs. Much like people, our pets communicate needs and issues in different ways. It’s important to take warning signs or displays of behavior seriously and not brush off a growl or hiss – always better safe than sorry! 

For further resources, this is a great link from the ASPCA: