New babies and animal safety

baby-petsMany children are bitten by animals, mostly domestic pets. When a new baby arrives into a home setting with a pet accustomed to being without children, the pet may be jealous.

The parent cannot assume the pet is safe around the newly arrived child. Never leave your new baby alone with your pet. If necessary, have your pet kept in a kennel or a friend’s home, and be very careful when the pet first sees your new baby.

Another problem is that pet food is a potential danger for babies, especially when they start crawling and exploring by putting everything within their reach into their mouths.

Aside from being a choking hazard, pet food has been the cause of bacterial outbreaks, including Salmonella, in children less than two. These children had eaten their home pet’s tainted dry pellets or chunks.

Here are some precautions to take to protect your baby and young children, if you have pets at home:

• Wash your hands after touching pet food and bowls;
• Regularly clean feeding bowls and the area where they are placed;
• Pick up the pet bowls from the floor when they are not in use;
• Keep babies and young children away from the pet food and the pet bowls;
• Do not clean pet bowls in the kitchen sink; use the bathroom sink or the tub.

Protecting your family against rabies

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system and is found in mammals; mostly raccoons, foxes, and especially bats. However, rabies can affect domestic pets as well. This is why vaccinating pet dogs and cats against rabies is important.

The rabies virus is found in an infected animal’s saliva and can be transmitted through bites or contact of the animal’s saliva with eyes, mouth, or an open wound.

In humans, if the virus enters the body and spreads, it is usually fatal, as there is no effective treatment for an active rabies infection.

However, there are vaccines and specific serum injections that are given on a precautionary basis if a person has been bitten by a potentially rabid animal. These injections are known as Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) injections. Here are some tips to help prevent rabies:

• Have your cats and dogs vaccinated;
• Do not feed wild animals;
• Teach children to stay away from wild or stray animals;
• Take measures to discourage wild animals from taking up residence in your home or on your property;
• Do not attempt to trap wild animals that are causing damage to your property. Contact a professional animal control officer instead;
• Report any animals behaving strangely to your local animal control office or municipality;
• Do not touch dead or sick animals;
• Do not nurse sick animals;
• Have all dead, sick, or captured bats that have come into contact with a human or pet tested for rabies.

Do not touch the bat. Contact your local health authority or agency for details.

A person who has been bitten may need to receive PEP to prevent rabies if they have been bitten or have been in direct contact with a potentially rabid animal. Local public health authorities need to be notified of all animal bites, and will assess the situation and offer treatment if necessary.

Pediatrician and health communications pioneer Dr. Paul Roumeliotis has produced of hundreds of articles, booklets and videos on a variety of child health issues. His highly acclaimed, groundbreaking book for parents focusing on the importance of the first 18 months of life, Baby Come Home, was released early in 2015 and is an Amazon bestseller. Visit and follow Dr. Paul on Twitter:@thedrpaul.