There are a thousand reasons why getting a pet for your child makes good sense. Having a pet can provide them with comfort and company — it is no wonder why some kids include it in their birthday or Christmas wish list. Getting a pet for your child can also teach them how to be responsible, improve their emotional and social skills, and give them opportunities to be more active. But owning one is not for everyone.
Caroline C. Aquino, MD from the Department of Pediatrics Section of Allergology and Immunology of top hospital in the Philippines Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed) reminds parents that having a pet at home requires some lifestyle changes and adjustments.
“It is important for parents to fully understand the impact of adopting a pet to the many aspects of their family life. You need to assess if your child is genuinely interested in getting a pet. Depending on your child's age, you cannot really expect them to look after the pet full time. This means that you, as the parent, would ultimately have the full responsibility of making sure the pet is well taken care of.”
Aside from the additional budget, chores, and the commitment it demands, Dr. Aquino and also Dr. Maria Angela Nicole Perreras-Grande from the Department of Pediatrics Section of Infectious Disease point out that there are also several health factors and risks parents need to factor in before bringing a cat or dog home to their children.
Existing pet allergies. While having pets around contributes to building a child's immune system and overall health, there are some kids with existing pet allergies who may experience allergic rhinitis and asthma. “The good news is that it is unlikely your child will be allergic to every type of pet. If you have a history of allergies, it is best to book an Allergist for consultation and possible allergy test for your child before adding a pet to the family.”
Molds and dust mites. The mess your pet makes will not clean itself, and if left around for too long, this may cause health problems.
Rabies infections and other health threats. Rabies, which infects the central nervous system, is one of the most severe diseases that humans can contract from dogs and cats, though other animals like monkeys and cattle can also transmit rabies. “It is a must for pet owners to vaccinate their pet and regularly bring him to the vet for routine health evaluations. Parents should also be prepared to bring their kids or anyone bitten or scratched by their pet to the hospital.”
If you have decided to get a pet for your family, Dr. Perreras reminds parents to keep themselves and their kids healthy by frequently washing hands especially after playing with the pet, keeping them nourished, cleaning up their spaces, and disposing of their feces.
Parents should also be able to train kids how to interact with animals, making sure they are gentle with the pet and prohibiting playtime when the pet is eating or asleep. It is also a must to determine the size of the pet and how large it will become. Children should also be taught not to immediately approach other people's pets without guidance from an adult.
“Introducing a pet to the family is ultimately a decision that should be thought over and over again, and not just to check off a child's wish list,” the expert finally shared.
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